TITLE: ...But Sometimes It's Worth It
AUTHOR: Vid Z.
PAIRING: Jack/Hailey, Sam/Shanahan
TIMELINE: S8, 2 months after Affinity and "Waking up is the easiest thing to do" and "While dealing with the consequences is not"
DISCLAIMER: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc of the TV show Stargate: SG-1 are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of this fic. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Here it is, the long awaited third part of the series. You are so lucky I've already started writing this even before I finished the prequel, otherwise you'd be stuck with that ending. I'm glad you're liking this series and this pairing, which admittedly was just an experiment for me with the sole intention of using it for only shock value.
HUGE THANKS TO Roczadeb for her help and patience in answering my questions about the details of how exactly pregnancy is handled in the US Air Force. Thanks, you're the greatest!
SUMMARY: How will Jennifer deal with her discovery? What will Jack do when she tells him? Will there be a happily ever after for the two most unexpected (especially to themselves) lovers? Sequel to "While dealing with the consequences is not" which is a sequel to "Waking up is the easiest thing to do".
1st Lt. Jennifer Hailey was sitting in her car, fingers tapping nervously on the steering wheel and pearl-white teeth gnawing on her lower lip.
She'd been sitting there for the last hour, trying to sum up the courage to get out of the vehicle and face the most terrifying mission she'd ever had to execute: telling her Commanding Officer she'd conceived his child.
Telling General Jack O'Neill, an advanced human, darling of the Asgard and the Fear of the Goa'uld, that she, a lowly Lieutenant, was carrying his unborn child in her womb.
For a second she paused at the thought that SHE, not Carter but she, Jennifer Hailey, was THE woman who was insuring that Jack's advanced, unique genetics would not die out, but would continue on, mixed with her own in their child and that child's children and so forth. The child, that could no doubt be of much interest to the Asgard, would have her genes, she could be it's mother, the mother of the Savior of the Asgard. It was heady stuff.
Unconsciously she caressed her still-flat belly tenderly, as if soothing a child inside, even though the child was still just a group of cells, not even formed yet. This early in her pregnancy she wasn't showing anything, even with her small, slim stature of five feet four, and as soon as she realized what she was doing she jerked her hand away.
She hadn't even decided what to do about the pregnancy yet, which was why she didn't allow herself to develop any maternal feelings or a bond to the being developing in her womb.
She was still undecided whether to let the pregnancy continue and have a child or abort it.
She knew about Jack's son, everybody did, it was a public secret at the SGC, one they kept jealously hidden from outsiders, and while the feminist in her rebelled against the idea that Jack had any say in the matter at all, much less as much as she had, the woman in her valued and wanted his input, seeing as he was the father of her baby. That woman believed he had every right to a say in the matter and that his word should have weight in her decision on what to do. Just as much say as she had.
But the one who especially wanted to know his feelings and thoughts on the matter was the young woman who was in a serious dilemma and trouble and was looking for a strong, supportive, yet taking-charge kind of man, craved desperately for him to take control of the situation and make the decision for her.
The romantic in her, the woman craving love and unconditional support, wanted to keep the baby, wanted Jack to support her all the way, being there for her, love her as a man loves a woman who is the mother of his children, she wanted him to marry her, she wanted to form a real family with him, have a few more kids, a fulfilling career and live happily ever after.
But on the other hand she was insisting she didn't have time for a baby right now, she had a job, a career, and was damn ambitious to get all the way to the top. She didn't want kids, she wanted to be free, she wanted to go where-ever she wanted, on the spur of the moment if she felt like it and that without having to make concessions for the smelly, screaming, annoying little brats, she didn't want to lug those same smelly, screaming, annoying brats around with her everywhere she went, she wanted to go out without having to manage a kid at the same time, she wanted to go to the grocery store without having to buy diapers, she didn't want to get bloated and leak all kind of fluids, she wanted to keep the slim, fit figure she'd worked so damn hard to attain, she didn't want to run to the toilet every five minutes, or go through labor or do anything else connected to pregnancy and parenthood.
There were also other significant advantages to aborting the pregnancy ASAP, like no-one finding out about her and Jack's, that's what she called him in her mind now, indiscretion and even if no-one did find out who the father was, her career would be slowed down by the pregnancy, she'd be placed on 4T non-deployable status and transferred out of the SGC to a less-dangerous assignment for the duration of her pregnancy.
It was a week after the discovery and, following an hour later, confirmation of her condition and she had only the overwhelming amount of work in the labs the past two months to thank for the fact that Jack didn't know about her condition yet. For, had she been on even a single off-world mission her blood would've been taken after she'd returned and her pregnancy would've been discovered. As military doctors are obligated to notify commanding officers about changes in personnel's health status, especially changes as life-altering and important and duty-assignment-influencing as pregnancy, Dr Brightman would've had to notify Jack of Jennifer's expectant, and right now she didn't feel even a little expectant about it, condition immediately.
The man was far from dumb and Jennifer knew he'd immediately make the connection of her being pregnant with them having had sex just a few weeks before.
It had taken her a week to screw up enough grit to go to him. And now she'd chickened out.
In his drive.
Some soldier she was...
She'd already grabbed the door handle by the time the nerves and doubts had struck and since then she'd been alternately reaching for the handle, letting go of it and then wringing her hands.
Jack was living in an almost rural neighborhood, his house along with it's large property was set out of the city and the next neighbor was living a mile away, otherwise she was sure that by now she'd have had police knocking on her windows, having been alerted by the suspicious neighbors.
But when the knock still came she was so startled by it that she jumped in her seat and shrieked out in fright.
Wide eyed she was staring up into the face of the man who'd been occupying her entire attention for weeks now, the man who grumbled crankily. "For crying out loud, Hailey! Are you planning on spending the night outside my house or what? You've been sitting in your car in my drive for over an hour now."
She couldn't stop the sheepish, embarrassed smile that emerged.
"Sorry, sir." she mumbled as she got out of the car, blushing and clutching her purse to her chest. A defensive posture Jack instantly recognized and immediately set out to relax.
"Please tell me you're not stalking me." moaned Jack with a weary sigh "I still got a headache from Carter's fiancee." he finished with a pleading look in his eyes.
Not wanting to get to the reason for her visit right away she was glad for the distraction. Besides, it was a great opportunity to get more info about the whole affair. The SGC was still buzzing with speculations and she was now in the unique position to get first-hand info.
"He actually stalked her?"
Jack looked at her shrewdly. He knew what she was doing, but he was going to let it go for now. She'd tell him when she was ready for him to know why she was there. "Yeah, the asshole even blew our stakeout. That was THE dumbest move I've ever seen, one not even a rookie with an IQ of 90 would make. No wonder, his IQ is 63."
Jennifer's eyes went wide. "Doesn't the Lt Col know about that?"
Jack shrugged as he headed for his garage, with Jennifer following him, listening avidly. "Oh, she knows. If she doesn't then we really need to get her IQ tested again and check if she's an impostor. Or she's just that gullible. Or desperate. Anyway, the guy turned up right outside our surveillance van the exact second she stepped out. In the district that's not his juristiction. That isn't a coincidence. The NID even has tapes of his following her."
"They followed him follow her around?"
"Yeah. Gathering all info on new interests of every SGC member is standard procedure. They need to check them out to know whether the boyfriend/girlfriend is a security risk, an implant by one of the interested groups. SG-1 is being routinely monitored, they knew about Shanahan even before I did. And none of the bastards had the decency to tell me about him." Jack said as he unlocked the door of his garage. Then seeing the frightened look in her eyes it took him but a second to realize her fears. Looking at his wrist-watch he noted. "Which reminds me, you have just 6 minutes until the next satellite passes over. They don't know about it, but they will sure start to suspect something if they see your car standing in front of my house. Especially in the evening."
Jennifer's eyes widened even more for a milisecond then she was off, running for her car. Jack opened the garage door and pointed towards the empty spot next to a tarp-covered motorcycle. His truck was simply too high for the garage so most of the two-car garage was empty.
Jennifer slipped her small Honda Civic additionally-modded-VTEC-version competently into the spot next to the bike, shut off the engine and stepped out.
Jack was looking at the car with a raised eyebrow, the sound of the typical tuner, and a highly souped up one at that, had not escaped his notice. Just like it's owner, small, but a power dynamo. It's small size was a deceptive cloak, just like Jack's dumb act, inside the car beat the heart of a beast, just as Jack was much more intelligent than he let people know.
He closed the garage door again, locking it and then, leading the way, proceeded into the house via the door leading directly into his foyer.
Motioning Jennifer onto the couch he tried to be a good host and inquired. "Would you like something to drink, Lieutenant? Jennifer." he corrected at her glare.
'Okay, so it's that kind of conversation we're going to have. I just hope she's not giving in her transfer request or resignation.' he mused.
For a second she entertained requesting a beer, but remembered that women in her condition aren't supposed to drink alcohol. "Water would be good, sir."
Jack raised an eyebrow Teal'c-style (amazing how much of the silent man's mannerism the entire team had taken over) and nodded, leaving for the kitchen. Minutes later he returned with her water and his beer and sat down on the other side of the couch to make himself more approachable to her, but far away enough from her so that he didn't make her nervous.
Then he just waited a couple of minutes while she fiddled with her glass and obviously tried to find some way to start the conversation, because she opened and closed her mouth a couple of times as if she was trying to say something, but not finding the words.
Finally Jack lost his battle with curiosity. "So, what are you doing here, Lt?" Jack winced when he realized how curt he sounded and tried to start over again. She really wasn't to blame for the fact that his body vibrated whenever she was nearby or that he hadn't been able to forget what they'd done. Or just how right she'd felt in his arms those few blissful minutes before he'd realized who he'd been holding. She didn't need to deal with the sexual frustration, mainly courtesy from his frustrating dead-end relationship with Sam, that had been building for years. There was just too much of it for one night of passion to fully release. "Not that I don't appreciate your stopping by, but I didn't really expect you coming for a visit."
Not much better than his first try, but she would have to excuse his lack of manners and eloquence since it was her unexpected showing up that was the cause.
She opened her mouth to let out the memorized speech, but instead found herself just blurting it out. "I'm pregnant."
She was angry at herself. She'd been agonizing over this for days, had spent hours trying to come up with the best way to say it, had rehearsed the speech for hours, only to just blurt it out like that. All that agony for nothing...
Jack's eyebrows disappeared in his silver hair "Oh." he finally managed and collapsed against the arm of the couch, then took a healthy gulp of his beer. He should've taken something stronger than just beer...
Something much stronger.
"'Oh'? That's all you're gonna say?" Jennifer snapped out after he'd been quiet for a few minutes, looking as lost as a small child in a mall. Unfortunately for Jack, Jennifer was in the trimester that an author of a pregnancy book, written for the fathers-to-be, had termed 'the time when your wife acts pregnant, but doesn't look pregnant'. Meaning, she was affected by hormones and her mood swings were as changeable and unpredictable as the weather in April even though she wasn't showing yet.
"Mine." he finally said and it wasn't a question, but a statement.
It turned out to be the right thing to say because Jennifer just nodded silently. He'd said the right thing, he hadn't doubted her morality or virtue or even fidelity and loyalty by asking her if it was his, hinting he believed she was sleeping around, going from one man's bed into another's, being a slut. Instead he hadn't doubted her in the least, instantly believing himself the father, showing faith in her and in her virtue.
Maybe there was still hope...
"Aren't you on any kind of birth control? The pill, Depo Provera, Norplant, that stuff?"
"So that's how it is?" retorted she angrily. "I should take care of the precautions while you get to have your fun!?"
She ignored the little voice in her head telling her she shouldn't be talking back to her commanding officer like that. Much less yell at him.
"No, Lieutenant." Jack snapped irritated. "The only thing I meant was that I know many women on base are on birth control, so I was surprised you weren't. And if you'll remember we were both obviously too drunk to think of condoms. You OR I."
She subsided, chastised. He was right on both counts. "Oh. I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions." she murmured, feeling those annoying tears come up again. Lately she'd been a walking watering pot, going from hellish rage to crying her eyes out in one second flat. "No, I don't use that kind of birth control. Those artificial hormones are just too harmful. Both Norplant and Depo Provera were proven to have severe malicious side effects, Depo Provera is even highly dangerous and after a woman stops using it, it takes almost a year before she's fertile again. The companies that produce them have both been sued many times. I'm not on any form of birth control and I wasn't even in a relationship. I didn't need birth control."
"What about in case of capture?" Jack asked hesitantly, even the thought of what could happen to her then making him sick. "What if..." he couldn't finish the question, barely being able to keep the bile down at the possible scenario.
"That's what this is for." Jennifer replied softly and he heard rustling, which made him look back at her.
Hailey had pulled her dog tags chain out of her T-shirt and showed Jack two items hanging off it. One was a 9 mm bullet, with the tip modified for the dum-dum effect and set in a small holder to stop it from falling off. The other was a small capsule and when she opened it there was a pill inside.
"The bullet is for me if it looks like I'll be captured. And the saxitoxin pill is if I for some reason can't use my weapon to do it."
Jack blanched stark white and for a second Jennifer feared he was having a heart attack or something else because she'd never seen him as deathly pale as then. Then he errupted. "What the hell were you thinking!? This is not the French Foreign Legion, Lt, we do not commit suicide if we're captured! We'd get you out as soon as possible, don't you know that?"
She stared at him solemnly. "But would you be fast enough? And would there be anything left to save after they were done with me? Did you even consider the question whether I would even want to live after that?"
He didn't have anything to say to that because she was right on all counts and because he knew the score. Chances of getting her out in time were miniscule.
He forced himself to calm down and tried to change the direction of his thoughts. "Where did you get saxitoxin anyway? The CIA were ordered to destroy all their supplies decades ago."
She smiled ironically. "When did the CIA ever follow orders, sir?" she asked rhetorically and he couldn't help but notice she'd called him 'sir'. Considering the situation it was definitely weird "They destroyed just a small amount to make the commission think they've destroyed everything while they hid the rest. They're still producing it, that's how I got it. A friend of mine works with the agency and he got it for me when I asked."
Jack ran a hand down his face and collapsed into the armchair. Jennifer continued sittting at the edge of the couch, nervous, her hands fiddling with her T-shirt. He didn't seem to be taking the whole situation badly, he seemed more upset by her extreme ways of avoiding capture and rape. But he still hadn't said anything about the baby.
"What are you planning to do about it?" he finally spoke up, waving a hand towards her abdomen.
"I don't know." she hung her head "That's why I came to you. I thought you'd know." the last was more of a question and she looked at him through her lashes, hating she was feeling so unsure and coming to Jack for him to take away the responsibility of making this life-changing decision.
She actually didn't know what to do. She wasn't ready to have kids yet, but on the other hand, Jack wasn't some stranger she'd had a night of sex with and then never saw him again.
No matter which way you looked at it, he was an important figure in her life, the most important man of her life, if for nothing else than because he was her CO, the man she trusted to protect her back from the politicians and send backup if she needed it, the man she trusted with her life.
And because she knew him and he knew her and because with the fact that he was her CO he would've found out about a possible abortion eventually and be understandably hurt and betrayed, he had the right to know about the child now before she did anything and to also have a say in the whole matter.
Unconsciously Jennifer was depending on him to give her a guideline on what she should do, to help her decide, to make things easier on her by giving her an order in this private matter as he did in their professional lives.
But she would be sorely disappointed.
"I can't tell you what to do, Jennifer." Jack said softly and her face fell. "It doesn't work that way. I can only tell you what I would like you to do."
"Why not?" she was mortified she had actually whined, but Jack took it in stride, pretending he hadn't registered her tone, something she was grateful him for.
"Because I don't want you to resent me or hate me sometime in the future for making you do something that will make you miserable, which will in turn make me miserable."
"Okay, then. Then answer this: what will you do if I keep it? What will you do if I don't?" it was a justified question. "I need to know, sir... Jack." she thought it bizarre to call the father of her child 'sir' in private. "What you want is important to me and it will play a part in the decision I make." she argued hotly.
Jack took a stunned breath. He hadn't expected that. True, he hadn't impregnated a woman in a long while, things had been much different back then and he had been married to Sara, but he knew that nowadays many women thought differently, mostly unattached women, who'd gotten pregnant outside of an established longterm relationship. Many believe that the man has to accept responsibility for the baby whether he wants to or not, he doesn't have a choice, while they have the right to several choices and if their choice is against the baby, then the father's contrary wishes mean nothing to them. If he actually wants the baby then in their opinion he doesn't have a say in the matter, cause it's only about them, the women in question. Which is a quite a biased viewpoint, since the father of the baby is affected and involved in all this, his life too has been changed. And if he doesn't want a child, but the woman decides for it, then he will still have to pay for it, he doesn't have a choice.
Women have a right to abortion, but why don't men have a right to male abortion? As Melanie McCulley, a South Carolina attorney, wrote in her 1998 article in which she defined the term 'male abortion' and defended the men's right to it: if women have the right to choose whether they want to be mothers or not, then men should have the right to decide whether they want to accept responsibility (legal, social, financial,...) too. She wrote that they have a right to abortion as well, but the matter of nature is that in their case the abortion would be more in a legal, social and financial sense.
He probably would've answered differently 20 years ago, but now, knowing this might be his last chance to prevent spending the rest of his life in loneliness and a chance to leave something behind, to become immortal in the way people normally achieve it, and all this after having already once experienced what it is like to have a family, he knew his decision before he even had to think about it. There was only one decision for him: he wanted to take this last chance, grab it and never let go of it. "If you have this baby, then you're stuck with me for however long I live, like it or not. This is my second chance. I will support you and help you, stand by you and the baby in any way I can. This child will be a bond between us for as long as we live and you will have to accept the fact that I'm going to be in your life forever and that as much more than your CO. Even if you don't like it, I'll be a part of your life forever. As will have to accept it any man you get involved with in the future."
She wasn't surprised by his answer, she knew how he felt about family. Still, it disturbed her that he didn't foresee anything more between them in the years to come than just the connection of the child binding them. He hadn't mentioned any deeper relationship, nor any chance of it between them. She was disappointed by this, because it went against her beliefs on what a family should be like. Besides, even though he was more than 20 years older her senior it had not stopped her from developing a crush on him that first time she'd gone off-world.
His statement that any future man of hers would have to deal with Jack being there, a prominent part of her life, filled her at the same time with joy as with sorrow. Joy that he would always be there, sorrow that didn't intend for there to be anything more between them and sorrow that he honestly believed there would ever be any other man in her life, her bed, after him.
The baby wasn't the only lasting consequence from their one night together. Somehow, perhaps because he'd been her first, or perhaps because he was her first lover AND one of those extremely few people she respected, that she looked up to, for some reason she now felt a closer, more intimate and visceral bond with him. A bond she certainly wouldn't feel with any other man who'd taken her virginity.
She could not remember their one night together, but somehow he had spoiled her for other men. Somehow, doing what she'd done with Jack, having some other man inside her felt wrong, felt completely wrong. Even the dildo she'd bought to sooth the constant arousal from her fluctuating hormones had felt wrong and had been thrown away. As if the only thing belonging in there was only Jack anymore.
2 weeks after that fateful night she'd finally taken notice of her unnusual preoccupation with something, had sat down and had analyzed herself to find out the reason. The results had not filled her with joy.
She was a scientist and that's why she knew that the only way she could make her preoccupation over her first time go away was to have another experience, with someone else. By then she'd still been presuming she was preoccupied only because it had been her first time and it had had nothing to do with whom she'd shared it.
So, in the most reckless and out-of-character move of her life she'd gone to some bar and had picked up a guy, ignoring the doubts clammoring at her all the way. But when she'd been walking out the door towards his car with him she'd finally regained her faculties and realized the magnitude of the huge mistake she'd been making. Not only had she been about to have sex with a complete stranger, which was so unlike her it wasn't even remotely funny, but she had put herself, her own body, her health, her life, her integrity, her honor, her ability to like herself, out as a sacrifice at the altar of her science in trying to prove a theory. She had compromised herself for the sake of her science, for the sake of something that wasn't worthy of any sacrifice, much less a sacrifice of this magnitude.
She'd known that, had she really done that, she would've not only risked her health (STDs) and even her life due to lethal STDs and the possibility of the guy being some kind of sicko, her integrity in not being shallow, she would also destroy any chance of liking herself, because she knew if she did have sex with strangers, she would despise herself for the rest of her life.
She'd then come up with a lie that she had to go to the bathroom, had gone back into the bar and the bathroom, snuck out through the window, moved stealthily back into the parking lot and got into her car, driving away unseen.
Ironically, Jack was the sole reason she had even successfully executed that exercise in stealth, because if it hadn't been for his teaching her lessons in stealth she wouldn't have been able to pull it off. He had saved her yet again.
She had then spent the rest of the night and the next couple of days berating herself for her stupidity and congratulating herself for coming to her senses just in time.
That was the last and only time she'd ever tried anything stupid like that again and it was also the time she'd acknowledged Jack had made a lasting impression on her, her soul, her body, had made his mark, a mark that could never be erased. She had admitted that from now on only his touch was desired and accepted and ever since then she couldn't even stand the thought of another man touching her.
"And what if I abort?" she wanted to know. She hadn't decided really, but ever since he'd begun giving her some feedback she was leaning towards the other direction. She just wanted to know what he'd do then.
Jack sighed heavily and a sorrow entered his eyes. He'd always wanted more kids after Charlie had been born, but Sara had had such a hard time with her first pregnancy that she'd had her tubes tied. And then he'd thought he had another chance for happiness with Carter... and we all know how that ended.
"If you abort, well, then we'll go on as if nothing had ever happened."
She had somehow expected this answer, but it had still taken her by surprise. "That's it?" she tilted her head.
"For crying out loud, of course that's it!" he exclaimed exasperated. "What did you expect? That I would transfer you out or demote you or somehow else 'punish' you for not being ready to be a mother at just 26?"
It had admittedly crossed her mind for a second and the guilt must've shown because Jack sighed heavily and slumped. "Jennifer, I admit I wouldn't be thrilled, it wouldn't be my preferred solution to this, but I will support you still. As much as I want this second chance I would never do anything to hurt your career. I just suggest that if you decide to abort, that you have it done by a civilian doctor at a civilian clinic. If you have it done by the military it'll always be on your record and they'll know about you having been pregnant. Which could later on be used against you in some way. To make sure it will never be on any of your records I can set you up with false documents, I still have enough pull with Special Ops. As long as the bill is paid the clinics don't care if you have real or faked documents and the military will never know about it and no-one will ever be able to use it against you."
Jennifer scrutinized him apprehensively. "Sir..."
"Look Hailey." Jack cut her off "If you decide to not go through with it, and I hope you don't decide to do that, I will be there with you through it. But if you decide to have our baby then I'm going to be there with you for the rest of my life. I'm going to be not just this baby's father, I intend to be it's Daddy, and you'll have to accept that. I know I'm not who you'd want to have children with, if you had a choice, but I've always wanted more children and I'll love this one as well."
That took away the last of her doubt and, eyes misting, she sniffed in relief. Jack had just justified every last shred of faith and belief she'd ever had in him and his character. He would stand by her through everything, no matter what she'd decide to do and he wouldn't hold her decision against her, even if she aborted the baby. She didn't know if she could've been as gracious had she been in his skin.
What Jennifer didn't know was that Jack's attitude was not entirely seeded in his respect for her, but a part of it, granted a very miniscule part, was also rooted in his insecurities and low self-esteem. To him it just didn't seem logical, much less possible that such an intelligent, beautiful, very young woman would want his child. He was an old soldier, worn-out and undesirable, unattractive, bitter, scarred and definitely not something a woman, especially this young with her pick of men, would want. He had received enough proof for this theory when Sam had dropped him like trash and had chosen a younger man over him. Therefore it was fully logical to him that she wouldn't want a child of his, wouldn't want to slow down a promising career by not stopping her pregnancy by giving birth. And she would definitely not want to blemish her good reputation by getting involved with an unpopular General, the black sheep of the flag officer collective.
What he was forgetting in this reasoning of his was the fact that Jennifer was a rebel herself and as a person was actually much like him, frighteningly similar even. There was actually not much chance Jennifer's career would flourish, especially not in a manner Jack envisioned. It's not because she was a woman, for this kind of repression in the US military has been long gone, with the first woman attaining a General rank in 1970, namely Brig General Elizabeth P Hoisington, and many women since having become flag officers, but because of Jen's rebelliousness, attitude, aggresiveness and trouble with authority. Jen liked to do things her way, had her own ideas who deserved respect and to whom she would show respect, she didn't care for rules and regulations, fiercely stood up against anyone who opposed her no matter who and what they were, and most of the time her sharp tongue got away with her, saying things she shouldn't have, getting her in trouble. As stated, she was very similar to Jack and the only reason Jack was even still in the military and had not been thrown out long ago was because of the work he'd done in his career. With the unique work they do and thus requiring unique soldiers who think for themselves and are extremely adaptable and definitely do NOT think inside the box, but outside, Special Operations brass have a much higher tolerance for Jack and Jennifer's type of personality than the mainstream military, where everyone is expected to obey like a robot and just jump without asking how high and in what way. Only special ops and pilots are given latitude, nobody else, because they are by build special and unique people.
* * The USAF is unique in the way that it has two casts of members: Flyers and non-Flyers. To be a flyer you are either a pilot or Special Operations. Jack was a Flyer, since he was a Pilot and was in Special Operations. Even if you are assigned to a non-flyer position, you are still a flyer. To paraphrase an Agency saying: "There is no such thing as an ex-Flyer." Jennifer was a non-Flyer for she was a scientist.
And in the USAF only Flyers get stars. * *
Fact is, had Jack only gone with his academic education he would've been thrown out decades ago, because no mainstream CO would tolerate an Astronomer with that kind of an attitude. For as long as Jen was with the SGC she was safe, but with her genius she wouldn't be risked on the frontlines for long, but would eventually be transferred to R&D where she'd get mainstream COs. Which is also where trouble would start. Thus the problem still remained: either Jennifer would shape up or ship out. As it stood now it was hard to say if she would shape up, but the irony of their situation is for that many people, women and men, it's the parenthood that straightens them out, puts them on the straight and narrow and matures them. Not all, but most people. Thus the thing that would maybe slow her career could also be the only thing to save it in the long run...
Alas, that wasn't everything to his reasoning: if she wanted to have an abortion he would get her those fake papers (he still had many friends who owed him favors in the Black Ops community and getting such papers, even making them fully legitimate and legal, was nothing big for him. If he asked they would create a whole history with a new name for Jennifer or him and make it fully legal and legitimate), he would pay for the procedure, stand by her, hold her hand as it was carried out and then step back, pretending to have forgotten they'd ever shared a passionate night together, pretending they'd never shared an unborn and not-yet-formed child. He would treat her as a regular CO would treat his subordinate officer, with whom he'd never been intimate.
She had been important to him even before they'd spent the night together and she would always be important, just as Carter was... it was the reason he had kept waiting for the blonde, never trying to act against her clear orders that they shouldn't act on their attraction. Jack cared about everyone under his command. This wouldn't change even if Jennifer had her abortion and he would never try to sabotage her future out of resentment or anger.
But these two weren't necessarily the only possible solutions...
"There's still a third option." Jack offered after a brief deliberation.
Jennifer tilted her head questioningly, silently asking him to explain.
"You could go through with the pregnancy, give birth to the baby and then give me full custody. You wouldn't have to be a mother to the baby, just give birth to it." he said hesitantly, unsure whether the real issue was that she just didn't want to be a mother.
She continued staring at him, which made him nervous because he didn't know what was going on in her mind.
"That's an option." she finally admitted non-committally and Jack let out the breath he'd been holding, relieved she hadn't taken it offensively.
Honestly, even though he'd suggested it himself this option would create more problems for them than any other. It was a compromise, she'd be transferred off the roster for the duration of her pregnancy, but she wouldn't become a mother and would get on with her career, while Jack would get his wish, being a father again. The problem this option would present was that it would undoubtebly raise questions and rumors, for as far as the public would know she and Jack had never been involved, but people would no doubt look disapprovingly and definitely bewildered at a CO adopting his subordinate's child. It would definitely raise questions.
Jack knew what his favorite option was, but he didn't even consider putting that suggestion forth. He knew such a young, beautiful woman, with her whole life ahead of her, with a large pick of guys her age, would never consider moving in with him and raising their child with him, like a real family. The probability of her accepting such a proposition was so small it wasn't even on the radar. She'd probably just laugh at him and the only thing Jack had left after he'd lost his family, after his wet-work in Black Ops and after Carter had broken their promise to each other, was his pride and he would do almost anything to protect it.
Even if it meant not going for happiness for the chance of being ridiculed.
"I need a few days to think it over." Jennifer finally whispered, breaking him from his reverie. "I want to have an answer for you right now, I really do, but I just don't have it. I need a few days."
"Of course." nodded Jack understandingly. "Take two days off and then if you need more call me, okay?"
Not capable of meeting his eyes Jennifer nodded while playing nervously with the straps of her purse. "Thank you, s... Jack."
Standing up she moved swiftly towards where she knew she'd find the inner door to the garage. Jack quickly grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and scribbled something on it then hurried after her.
"Jennifer!" he caught her by her car.
Shifting awkwardly on his feet he gave her the paper. "Here, my cell-phone and home numbers. If you need anything, anything at all, call me." he implored, looking her deep into her eyes. "Day or night."
Silently, she nodded and took the paper, storing it in her small purse, then got into her car and prepared to start the engine.
Jack walked over to the garage door and checked his watch to see if it was safe. Satisfied the satellite had passed them he opened the door, quickly looked outside to see if there was anyone staking his place and stepped back once he was sure everything was clear.
Slowly pulling out of the garage she waved, receiving a wave in return, and quickly disappeared down the deserted road.
Jack stood there for a long time, staring at the spot he'd last seen her car, before locking down the garage and heading back inside, wondering what turn his life would take next.
* * for the info in this paragraph (on FLYERS) the thanks go to Rocza, a current member of the US Air Force, who for the obvious reasons has more knowledge on the USAF culture than most people, if not all, on this site.
To read more on this issue and to laugh your ass off due to the excellent and extremely humorous way in which she'd put it, check out her fic's "Tears of Aphrodite" Chapter 9's End Notes. Btw., the fic is rated M, so adjust your browser accordingly.
Jennifer returned to work after those two days Jack had given her, but Jack stayed away, not even to ask whether she needed more time. She would've told him had she needed more time and he guessed, that like he she didn't really want to spend too much time in her empty home by herself. It was obvious to him she hadn't reached a decision yet, since she would've notified him had she, and he didn't want to crowd her until she did. He knew it was a decision a person needs time to make and definitely did not need anyone disturbing her.
So, he stayed away, no matter how much he wanted to talk to her. He wanted to convince her that keeping the baby would be the best thing, but even he knew that for her career it would not be so. However in the case of her biological clock the timing was perfect. Every year the age at which people have their first children rises and now many women have their first children when they are already over 35, into the high risk pregnancy age. He'd already been married at Jennifer's age, but nowadays 26 is no longer a full adult, but still a young adult, who strives to be independent, not tied to one person for life, much less having children already.
He knew Jennifer wanted a successful career and Jack was truthful with himself about the fact that a baby would just hold her back, which was why he spent those days in a constant low-grade panic. Even though the baby hadn't been conceived in the way he'd wanted, not on the wedding night with the person he'd wanted, but during a drunken attempt to forget his heartache; nor with the person he'd wanted it to be, Carter, and with that person being young enough to give him serious age complexes; but he had decided that no matter what the circumstances and no matter who the mother was he was glad about the baby and wanted it nonetheless. It had taken him a lot of effort and work on himself to realize their age differences and the mother being his subordinate officer didn't matter as long as she wanted the baby and as long as he knew and respected the woman.
He couldn't bear to think about the possibility that he could've slept with some nameless woman and gotten her pregnant. That would've been soooo much worse it wouldn't have been funny. At least he knew Hailey, hell, he knew her medical history and thus knew she didn't have any STDs or genetic defects, that the child could inherit. And, if she gave it a chance, he knew that his kid would have the best mix of the best genes out there. And isn't that what the primary task the nature has given every living being is? To insure their offspring has the best genes possible by finding a partner with first rate genetics.
He'd been lucky to succeed both times he'd had a kid, Sara was an intelligent and good looking woman. Hailey was beautiful, though short, extremely intelligent, had no genetic defects and was young enough that the fetus would develop no mother's-age-connected-defects (like the Downs syndrome) during it's gestation.
That all having any importance only IF Jennifer decided to have it in the first place...
The answer to that question was given to Jack 8 days after Jennifer's visit. She again visited him during a weekend, but this time on a Sunday.
Jack was grilling meat in his backyard, swinging the bottle in his hand forlornly when he heard a cough.
His head snapped up and hope started to blossom in his heart. There stood Jennifer, looking as hesitant as she could. And, for some reason, as beautiful as she could.
"Hey." Jack called out, prompting a small smile to grow.
"Hey." she replied, taking a few slow steps towards him.
"How are you? On this fine day..." he asked, waving with the beer.
"Good." she intoned then, biting her lip once, braved on. "I came to tell you. My decision."
Jack was silent, but even she could clearly interpret his raised eyebrows as a prompt. "I'm keeping it." she blurted out and was gratified to see Jack's shoulders slump in relief and a smile overtake his face.
"That's great." she thought his vocal confirmation of his feelings on the matter was redundant for she would've had to be blind not to see he was happy about it.
She pointed a finger over her shoulder and walked in reverse. "I'll... uh... just go now."
Just as she spun around to make a dash to calm her out-of-control heart he called out. "Jennifer!"
She looked back. "Yes?"
His smile was tentative, unsure. "Stay for dinner?" Then, courage deserting him, he tried to cover how much his heart was behind it by making it a more of a business-like proposal. "We should talk how to go from here."
She gnawed her lower lip, thinking furiously. Should she? Or should she go, before she got even more involved? But her internal voice snorted in derision. She was carrying his baby. How could she ever be anything less than completely involved?
Yet, this was her last chance to establish a distance between them.
What would she do?
"Okay." she finally nodded, taking the leap and changing her future. She instinctively knew that from now on, her and Jack's lives would be tightly intertwined, even without the baby.
Had she left she could've still continued her life on her own as just a female subordinate who'd gotten pregnant by an unknown man, nobody would've been able to connect Jack to it. Stuff like this happens all the time and their professional lives wouldn't have changed.
But now, now it was going to be different, they would be an item, a package-deal and for this Jack would have to adjust his talk to TPTBs accordingly. Had they only remained co-workers Jack wouldn't have had to involve TPTB at all, since Jennifer hadn't wanted him to come clean when it had happened. But now he would have to come clean about the whole thing and plead for permission for them to be together so they could raise the baby together.
She knew her analysis of the situation would look wrong to many people, because Jack had not said anything at all about them being together.
But she'd seen his eyes when he'd invited her to stay for dinner. In his own way Jack had asked her to give them a chance, to see whether they can have anything more than just a kid together. She wouldn't have known this meaning behind Jack's words had she not looked into his eyes as he'd asked. The anxiety in those deep brown pools had been too large for a talk on how to proceed, that amount of anxiety had indicated he had been exposing himself, making himself vulnerable on a personal, emotional level. And there was only one possible way he could've been exposing himself...
And to this young woman in love her baby's father's desire to build a relationship together, for themselves, and a real family for the baby, it was like the gates to paradise had just been opened. There was no way she was not going to take this opportunity, an opportunity she'd been wanting for years, and with an excited fluttering in her stomach and her heart singing with happiness she stepped onto the road to the life she'd been wanting for years.
Smiling brightly she added one important qualifier, a qualifier that would enable her to relax and fully enjoy the afternoon "But I gotta put the car into the garage."
He smiled "No problem. The keyring is on the armoire by the entrance door. It's the blue key. The plates are above the sink and the utensils are in a drawer to the right of the sink. I have to watch that the meat doesn't burn."
"Okay." she nodded confused and walked into the house.
She was perplexed at his lack of manners, but when she heard him yell after her "Mi casa es su casa." she finally had her explanation. It wasn't that he was rude, it was completely different. In his own way Jack was trying to tell her that she was no guest anymore, but a resident of this house. Or not-a-resident-but-not-just-a-guest. If she wanted.
He was letting her roam free, unmonitored through his house, he'd told her where all of his keys were, he'd basically told her to...
Scratch that last thought, he'd not basically, but explicitly told her that his house was her house, to make herself at home.
She made quick work of putting her small car inside and locking the garage, then headed into the kitchen. There she took her time exploring the cabinets, to familiarize herself with everything. She had a feeling she'd need this knowledge in the future. She found herself a glass, plate and utensils.
Glancing into the fridge she snatched up the orange juice, then paused. 'Orange juice? Jack?' looking back, as if she could see him through the wall, she checked. 'Naah. Everyone knows he drinks only beer.' He'd probably bought it just for her and her eyes mistened involuntarily at that thought. As a reward, she also grabbed a beer for him.
Her eyes zeroing on fixings for a salad she quickly checked her memory. No, there had been no vegetables anywhere outside.
She shrugged, they hadn't said anything on how this would go, yet, but she wasn't going to let her man clog his arteries to death. It was her responsibility now to make sure he ate healthy, after he had not had anyone taking care of him for years, almost a decade, and she would start immediately.
She quickly added salad oil, salt, vinegar and water and then finished preparing it. Then she put it into a bowl that for some reason looked home-made. Deciding to figure the puzzle out later she continued with her work.
She grabbed what she could and headed outside. There she put everything on the table and was quickly back again, carrying the rest of the load outside while Jack burned his meat. The next time she came back into the kitchen she made quick work of cutting tomatoes into 8 pieces, put tem all on a plate and then glanced into the fridge if she'd forgotten anything.
Puzzled, she pulled out a jar with... something... red in it. The label didn't provide any help, it wasn't even in English nor in latin script. It also wasn't a factory label, but a home-made one with the words written in chemical pen. She unscrewed the top and sniffed cautiously. It didn't smell weird so she stuck the tip of a teaspoon into it and tasted it. It had an unusual taste, but not unpleasant.
Shrugging, she took it and the tomatoes to the patio where Jack had already put the meat on their plates and sorted everything.
She decided to just quietly soak in the domesticity of this entire experience and to not over-think it.
Jack nodded approvingly when he saw her choice. "Ah, ayvar, good choice."
"Ayvar?" Jennifer repeated slowly, trying to get the pronounciation right.
Jack nodded again. "It's actually written a-j-v-a-r, but pronounced ayvar. It's a food originating from Serbia, but had spread through the entire former socialist Yugoslavia. They call this type of food zimnica as in food for over the winter. I first encountered it in 1984 in Bosnia at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Beautiful city and an amazing country. Until they bombed the hell out of it. The trip was well worth the interrogation I had to go through with my bosses after I returned, they didn't like that I had willingly entered a socialist country. Was suspected of being a communist-sympathizer for years after that and they almost ordered my elimination. Got through, though, but still didn't regret going there. Anyway, they often serve ajvar with grilled meat, so you made an excellent choice."
Fascinated, she listened carefully, eager to find out more about this private man, who was now the father of her unborn child "What's it made of? The label is in Cyrillic."
"Peppers, eggplant, garlic. It's a time consuming job, but well worth it."
"Where did you get this jar?"
"A guy I served with in Spec Ops is 2nd generation American Serb. His folks came over here in the 50's, together with many of his relatives. He now lives in Illinois where the third largest concentration of American Serbs resides. They make their own ajvar and I buy it from him regularly. It was a good thing I ate the really hot one first, because you can eat this one pregnant without any problems. The other one would probably give you heartburn."
"That's good then." she declared, nodding.
"I'm glad you brought it out with you because ajvar tastes best when eaten together with meat, especially BBQ-ed meat. No meat tastes better than the one with ajvar. Try it."
He offered and watched amused as Jennifer took a tentative bite and then chewed thoughtfully before her lovely face cleared in appreciation. "You were right, it's good." she confirmed and shoved more into her mouth, chewing enthusiastically. "Real good." she added with full mouth.
Jack laughed and took a bite himself, occasionally sending her a long, indecipherable look as they talked during their meal.
After they'd cleaned up, something Jennifer had insisted she would help with, she took her leave and Jack watched her go with a heart full of confusing emotions. Then he went inside and picked up the phone.
He had an appointment to make.
Ten minutes before 9 AM the next morning Jennifer signed-in at the first checkpoint. Returning the guards' hello, she walked off fully aware of two very interested stares nailed to her ass. She wasn't interested in any of them herself, she now had her own scrumptious snarky General (at least she thought she did, she wasn't really sure about the state of affairs between her and Jack) and wouldn't have been interested even had she not had Jack, yet she still had to admit it felt good to her ego.
Briefly she wondered whether they would've still looked at her ass if they knew she was pregnant and if they'd be looking at her ass in a couple of months as she'd grow big. Even more wanted she to know if they would've stared at her ass if they knew she was pregnant with General O'Neill's baby...
Everyone knew Jack wasn't a possessive or openly jealous man, if nothing else his stoicity and passivity during each of Carter's dalliances had confirmed it. He hadn't gone off on a jealous rampage and claimed her before any man, had in fact done nothing. But that was still different, Jack hadn't namely had a hold on Sam, something he'd been painfully aware all through these years, but he had a claim now on Jenn. Wonder how he would react to other men undressing her with their eyes...
Deciding not to dwell on the matter, Jennifer made her way to the infirmary.
Stepping into the front area the familiar repugnant smell of antiseptic assaulted her immediately. Suddenly she froze on the spot, the smile slipping off her lovely face which swiftly turned green. Turning around she bolted out of the room, running full pelt for the nearest toilet, where she proceeded to introduce her breakfast to the world.
20 minutes later a much less confident and definitely unsmiling, pale and shaky Jennifer Hailey once again entered the domain of SGC's medical personnel.
Waving off the concerned nurses that immediately flocked to her she directed her steps towards the CMO's office.
Knocking, she entered after receiving the command and stood patiently until the doctor finished signing some papers on her desk.
Finally looking up her eyes widened in surprise at the identity of her visitor "Lieutenant Hailey! Please, sit down. How can I help you?"
"Um." Jennifer fidgeted "I need you to run a test on me."
The older woman's eyebrow raised "What kind of a test?"
"A pregnancy test."
Now the other eyebrow joined it's companion and Dr Brightman crossed her arms over her chest.
"Why do I get the feeling you already know the results?"
Jennifer just smiled innocently, which did nothing to convince the Doctor.
Brightman sighed deeply "Okay, come on, let's get this done."
Leading Jennifer to an examination room she took the time to carefully draw the blood needed and labeled the vials "Okay, this will take a while, so you don't need to wait here for the results. We'll page you when they're in."
Thanking the doctor, Jennifer slid off her perch and left the infirmary, relieved to be away from the offending smell.
The next few hours went excruciatingly slow. After exiting the infirmary, she'd automatically turned towards the gym, but then stopped when she remembered one small, but extremely important, fact. She was pregnant. She couldn't do the things she did before, not anymore, she was now in danger of miscarrying from physical stresses on her body. That was why she'd gone to the doctor for the blood test, because this kind of condition would have to go into her medical records and military personnel file. Better to wait for her first OB-GYN appointment and then ask the doctor what kind of exercising and in what amount she could safely do without hurting the baby. No sense in being stubborn and trying to force the issue by going to the gym anyway and pay for it with killing the baby.
Regulations state that a woman is immediately put on 4T non-deployable status after the discovery of pregnancy. If she hides her pregnancy she can be charged with hiding a serious medical condition, negligence, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming and other charges. Which in effect means, a pregnant woman is pulled off a physically active team or taken off her assignment if it takes place in a hazardous environment, in SGC's case off an SG-team and out of the labs, and put in a safer position aka administration. With the labs being classified hazardous areas and no chance to vent her frustrations on a punching bag the next few months were going to be very long.
The summons came 3 hours later when she was in the commissary, having lunch with Chloe Felger, a still-beaming-and-blushing new-bride, even now 6 months after the fact. Before Chloe had managed to ensnare Jay she'd been more of a solemn type of company, her daily failures to get his attention off Samantha Carter and onto herself leaving her depressed. While Jennifer hadn't liked to see her friend so beaten down and dis-spirited, she had had to admit that she'd been glad for a quiet and serious companion. But now... let's just say that if you looked for the words "bubbly" and "perky" in the dictionary, Chloe's headshot was under them. Normally Jennifer would've long since stood up and left that giant ball of positive energy behind, but not this time. She was using Chloe as a type of therapy, since her hormones have been bouncing all over the place, she'd decided to stick with Chloe for the other woman to lift her mood.
It had been working for a while until Chloe had, in the typical I'm-a-deliriously-happy-new-bride-and-want-everyone-to-have-this-kind-of-happiness style, tried to match Hailey up with someone. With the things still in the air with Jack since he hadn't talked to the Powers That Be yet, Jennifer couldn't very well tell the truth that she was pregnant and starting some kind of a relationship with the baby's father since Chloe would want to know the identity of the man. Needless to say, Jennifer had been infinitely glad for the page since she'd been just about to do something very painful to Chloe.
Jennifer stood, thanking her lucky stars for salvation and ran out of the commissary like a bat out of hell.
"It's positive." she'd been expecting this result, but the words still shook her.
Looking into her little book the doctor frowned "Now, you can either go to the Academy Hospital to get it done or I can recommend a couple of private, very discrete clinics."
Shocked, Jennifer could only gape for a second "What!?" then it came to her what Brightman was talking about "Hey! No! I'm not having an abortion!"
That stopped the doctor in her tracks and she turned surprised eyes on the young woman "You're not?"
"No!" Jennifer denied hotly "Why did you think I would?"
"Well." Brightman stuttered "I just assumed... Everyone knows you're very ambitious, only Lt Col Carter is more ambitious than you, so it seemed unlikely you would allow this to slow down or stall your career, which is why I assumed it was a default decision."
"Then you're wrong." argued Jen passionately.
Brightman brightened at this turn of events and switched tracks "Okay then. We have no gynecologist, much less an obstetrician here on staff, so I'd like to refer you to Dr Jamison, a very good OB-GYN, if you'd like."
"Thanks, I'd like that."
"Now for the less nice part." she squinted at Jennifer "You do know that you can't go off-world anymore, right?" Jennifer nodded "Very well. I'll put in paperwork to have you put on 4T non-deployable status and removed off the active team roster. Then I'll give your case over to Dr Jamison who will first make further arrangements with your team leader and General O'Neill as your pregnancy progresses. Would you like me to inform Major Tomlins and General O'Neill or would you like to do it yourself?"
That was a no-brainer. "No, that's okay, I'll do it myself."
"Okay, no problem. Then this would be it for today."
"Okay, thanks, Doc." nodding gratefully, Jennifer stood up and headed for the door.
"Oh and Lt Hailey!"
Hailey turned around "Yes?"
"Congratulations." Brightman smiled warmly.
Jennifer returned the smile "Thank you." and left the office.
Her talk with Major Tomlins and the rest of the gang, known as the Geek Squad as it consisted of only scientists and not one combat soldier, hadn't been that much of a walk in the park. The man was obviously severely saddened by her departure off the team and hadn't bothered hiding it. She'd known he respected her and valued her as a team-member, but not this much. Still, it was flattering even though she felt awful for letting her team-mates down, who'd clearly shown their disappointment at losing a friend off the team. The impromptu goodbye party they'd thrown her had been a depressing one, reminding Jennifer too much of a wake.
Checking the "talk to Tomlins and the team" off her list the only thing left was to talk to Jack and inform him of the day's events.
Well, at least this part would be easy since he already knew what was going on, just waited on an official confirmation so he could push the papers through.
Turning a corner to enter his office she was stopped by an SF, Airman Sanders, standing guard outside the door "Ma'am, if you're looking for the General, he's not in today."
Jennifer stopped, her brow furrowing into a frown "Not in? At all?"
"No, hasn't even checked in. From what I hear he took an early transport to Andrews this morning."
AFB Andrews... DC... Pentagon... Hammond.
It all made sense, since they would need permission from their CO. Or an off-the-record advice. She didn't know which was better, these waters are just too murky to see the bottom clearly.
Nodding towards the Airman she turned around "Thank you, Airman."
Arriving into her office she pulled out the card with his phone numbers that he'd given her. Taking out a scrambler to hide the number she was dialing in case anyone got curious and her location, she plugged her cell-phone into the special jack she'd created that was connected to the phone landline of the base.
Cell-phones were normally completely useless this deep down in the ground, under trillions of tons of earth, rocks, concrete, steel, fiber-optic cables, EM radiation from every conceivable apparatus,... and tapping into the landline was the only way to use a cell phone. Calling from her office phone would be stupid, since security and the computer would see which number she was calling.
And for now, when nothing had been agreed yet and there were no official stamps on their permission to be together, the last thing she wanted to do was to arouse suspicion and cause an investigation into the reasons for why she was calling the General's private number and from where did she know it.
Then, with a triumphant grin upon hearing the dial tone in her ear, she dialed Jack's cell phone number.
"O'Neill." was the gruff answer.
"Sir, it's Hailey."
"Hi." Jack's voice had grown noticeably softer when he recognized Jennfier.
"Just wanted to let you know. I had Doctor Brightman do the test and it came back positive. She already notified Major Tomlins and you should have their notices and request for my reassignment to a desk job on your desk in half an hour."
Noticing the waver in her voice "It's not forever, Jennifer, just a few months and then you'll be right back to terrorizing the snakes."
"Yeah." her voice was still small and when she was quiet for a few seconds Jack was really beginning to worry. He was getting the feeling that being off the team roster wasn't what was really bothering her. A second later his suspicions were confirmed.
"Brightman assumed I would be aborting the baby." she noticed the upset hitch to his breathing and it calmed her down. Finally she couldn't hold it in anymore and wailed "Am I that much of a bitch that I would kill my own baby for the sake of my career!?"
'So, this is what's been bothering her...'
"No, you're not." Jack stated adamantly, cursing the fact that he couldn't rail on Brightman for her insensitivity. If he did he would give away the truth of the child's paternity, because it wasn't something Jennifer would complain to the CO of the base about and only an expectant father and partner of the woman would take it to heart so much.
"But..." she started.
"Because you DIDN'T abort. You decided to keep it, give birth to it and be it's mother. Sure, you're amibitious, but you still value your child's life above your career."
That finally calmed her fears. Once again she was overwhelmed with the truth of just how important Jack's involvement was to her and how much he steadied her, calmed her down. She was definitely grateful for his support and the fact that he was the one she'd slept with, the one who'd knocked her up. If she'd had to get pregnant she was grateful and relieved she'd gotten pregnant by Jack and not someone else. She'd fulfilled nature's demand: she'd found a good, strong, supportive man for the father of her children "Thank you... Jack."
She could hear his smile through the phone "No problem. You know you can call me anytime. Just not in the coming 2 or 3 hours, I doubt Hammond would appreciate being interrupted by a phone while he's tearing me a new one."
Muttering to himself he added "The man makes me feel as if I'm being sent to the school principal again." she overheard and giggled.
"Yeah, I heard you took a flight out to Andrews this morning."
"Decided it's best not to waste time. I'm on my way to Hammond's by car as we speak, he took this morning off after I called him yesterday. Will let you know as soon as I know anything. But you still gotta love the base's grapevine. If we could use their tongues for weapons we would've beaten the Snakes long ago."
She couldn't help but agree.
"I'll let you go now, I just wanted you to know."
"Thanks." he said warmly "For letting me be a part of this."
"No problem." she smiled and was about to hang up when she heard him calling out.
"Oh, and Hailey?"
"Yes, sir?" she said reflexively, then rolled her eyes at herself.
"I had Walter leave something for you in your desk drawer."
Curious she pulled the drawer open and discovered his precious Gameboy. Her eyebrows shot up, surprised and confused. "Sir?"
There was a silence on the other end as Jack shrugged, embarrassed to be showing so much consideration, even though she couldn't see it "Well, you're being pulled off a team and can't use the gym anymore, so I figured that you could relieve stress this way."
'How sweet.' she couldn't help but think. 'He's giving me me his Gameboy. Nobody has ever been allowed to even touch it before. Not even SG-1... And he's giving it to me.'
Out of nowhere tears came flooding down Jennifer's cheeks, stunning her. Since when was she ever prone to crying? And especially for anything less but the world ending?
"There's a game already in it, a shooter, so you can just start playing. There are also fresh batteries in it." Jack was growing increasingly more uncomfortable with what he'd done and his discomfort only grew when no sound came from the other end of the line. When a sound finally came his worry grew.
"Hailey, are you crying?" he asked alarmed.
"No!" she denied hotly, wiping the tears away impatiently.
"Uh huh." he grunted skeptically and she could tell he didn't believe her, but understanding she wanted him to drop it "Anyway, I better go, I've arrived at Hammond's. See you soon."
"C'ya." she whispered and stood there, looking at the toy in her hand for a long time.
When George Hammond opened his front door to his subordinate General he didn't have the slightest clue the twist his day would take. Jack's brightly beaming face instantly put him on edge though and he sent the other man a distrustful look as he let him in.
' Why do I get the feeling I'm not gonna like what he's here for. ' he muttered to himself as he led the younger man into the living room.
When Jack started beating around the bush and discussing weather and other such nonsense Hammond's worst fears were being realized. Jack was the most blunt person he knew and for the man to avoid the topic it had to be bad.
"Okay, Jack, cut the crap." Hammond finally cut through Jack's ramblings when the other man complimented the house's decor for the third time "I know you're not here to discuss the weather, nor the job, nor my grand-daughters and especially not the decor. What is it?"
That stopped Jack short. He had actually half-expected that to happen, for the balding General was amazingly perceptive, especially when it came to people.
"I've got a hypothetical question." Jack finally started.
Hammond's eyes narrowed and he felt the onset of a headache. "And you need a hypothetical answer and advice, right?"
"So what is it?"
Jack hesitated for a second, unsure whether to say it or not. He was putting a LOT of faith and trust into Hammond's hands, the older man could just as well call the MPs and have Jack and Jennifer arrested.
But after all the times Hammond had stood up for him and the SGC Jack was sure the Head of Homeworld Security would do nothing like that. "Let's say there are two people, a man and a woman, the man is the woman's CO."
George could feel the dread from before turning into a solid headache "Go on."
"They get drunk one night and, even though it's against the regs, they sleep with each other."
Oh, yeah, Hammond's fears had definitely been justified.
"When they wake up they realize what they've done and decide to forget about it and act as if it never happened. They get back to being completely professional."
"So, if they went back to being professional why are you asking me this? You know it's the CO's decision whether he allows them to continue on or charge them and that articles 8 and 8.1 of the Air Force Instruction AFI36-2909 encourages charges being brought against those who fraternize only if their actions threaten the reputation of the service or unit cohesion and mission accomplishment. It's your decision so you decide whether you let them be together or charge them." responded George, his head now throbbing in pain. He knew he shouldn't have opened the door when he'd seen that all-too-bright-to-be-real smile on Jack's face through the peep-hole.
"Yes, well, all would be great and nice if it were that simple. But, the thing is, two months later the woman comes to visit the man to tell him he's about to become a Daddy." Jack finished sarcastically.
Hammond had had enough "Okay, Jack, let's cut the crap! Please say you didn't sleep with Carter and knock her up!"
Jack's eyes bulged out in surprise and shock "Hell, no!" He denied vehemently.
Hammond deflated relieved and sank back into the couch "Thank god."
"It's Hailey I slept with."
The old General shot up from his couch when Jack said those words.
George quickly thought through the personnel he knew and then his eyes went wide "Hailey?" Jack nodded "THE Hailey?" Jack nodded again "The Hailey that's only a Lieutenant and only 26!?" Jack nodded for the third time, his slumped shoulders showing his misery.
"Oh, hell, Jack, when you screw up you really screw up!" Hammond groaned. Only a strange, strangled sound could be heard from the man in question.
"You said two months, on which day exactly did it happen?" demanded the bald General, fearing the worst.
"The night of Carter's engagement party." mumbled Jack softly and heard a growl from the couch.
"You should write a book, General. 'How to screw up your life 101' by Jack O'Neill." he looked at Jack who was looking down at his hands chastened "You do know what this looks like, right?"
He didn't give him a chance to answer but continued "You were so heartbroken by the engagement of the woman you're desperately in love with that you went and picked up a younger, improved Carter clone. And to top it off it'll look like you're having a midlife crisis, Hailey is 22 years younger."
"Hey! Hailey is no Carter clone!" Jack shot up, instinctively defending the mother of his child.
Hammond silenced him with a single look "Keep on digging that hole, Jack." he suggested sarcastically. Then he stopped and a speculative look came into his eyes, a look that chilled Jack to the bone "Actually, do keep it up, the way you just reacted it'll at least make everyone think you're in love with her. Much better than having them think you were just grabbing a young Carter clone."
Jack turned wide eyes on his superior. "I fail to see how that could possibly be better."
"Think about it, Jack. What do you think it's better for the public to think of you and how it will affect your professional reputation: that you have a midlife crisis and got yourself a young, beautiful woman or that you are in love with your other subordinate and were so broken-hearted by her engagement that you found yourself someone extremely alike to make you forget?"
Hammond rolled his eyes and sighed as Jack gave real thought to the question.
"Can I get back to you on that?"
Hammond looked at him pissed, making Jack shut up and refrain from any more smart remarks.
"I know, George, but more important than Carter is the fact that Jennifer's pregnant and we've already agreed to keep it and raise it together."
That actually made things better "What the hell should I do, Jack, tell me!"
Jack shrugged, his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels. "I don't know, sir, that's why I came to you."
After a second "I thought of retiring, but well, kids are expensive and a Lt.'s pay at the start of her career is not very large. And then there's the College fund, and the car and so forth,... Plainly put, we need my paycheck."
Hammond looked at him curiously "You don't think the baby will go to the Academy?"
"If we're lucky it won't." Jack smiled a wry grin, then got serious "You know what life in the military is like, sir, and what it can demand of you to do." they both thought back to their careers and the horrors they'd been ordered to do in the name of their country "I don't want that for my kid." Privately Hammond agreed "If I'm lucky it'll become a civilian doctor or lawyer or some kind of civilian scientist. With the genes it's gotten, the last option is almost guaranteed. Bottom line, I want my kid to have a good life. A quiet, safe, well paid, ordinary, 9 to 5, always-there-for-the-family, nobody-is-ever-shooting-at-me kind of life."
Hammond nodded, humming thoughtfully "Their child being happy and safe is every parent's wish. At least of those who give a damn about their children."
"Yeah." joined Jack.
Neither said anything for a few minutes, just continued drinking their beers in silence. Jack was looking deep into his glass as if it held the answers to everything, while George was carefully observing him, trying to come up with a plan.
"Here's what I'm gonna do, Jack." Hammond's voice cut through the silence unexpectedly, startling Jack "I'm gonna do you both a favor and in return you'll attend every monthly meeting of Homeworld Security for the next year."
Jack grimaced with distaste and opened his mouth to say something, but was stopped by the older man.
"It's non-negotiable, Jack. Either that or this conversation never happened and you'll have to ask your superior officer about your situation and not your friend." His sharp words were softened by the expression on his face "It's time for you to take more responsibility, Jack. You're a great base commander, but you're not a Colonel anymore, you're a General now. That means more responsibility. I'll try to be considerate of the fact that Jennifer's having a baby and that you're going to be adjusting your entire life to fit in a woman you weren't involved with until now, and in 7 months a baby too, with your priorities now elsewhere when planning these meetings, but you've gotta get used to it. I'm not young anymore and I'll be retiring soon. You'll be taking my place and..."
"But you're so young." interrupted Jack, truly dreading the thought of another star and even more paperwork and meetings. Okay, to be honest, dreading just more paperwork and meetings, another star wouldn't be so bad. They were nice and shiny and made him The Man. "You're too young to be retiring. Just join me for a couple of laps in the pool every week and you'll still have plenty of years before you."
Hammond laughed slightly, amused at Jack's attempt "Jack, you know I was just before retirement when the SGC was created. This retirement has been put off for 8 years, it's time I say my goodbyes to the military. You don't have to worry, though, you'll do good." The older General's assurance did nothing to reassure Jack, but it pleased him nonetheless that the man he looked up to believed in him.
"You know," started Jack casually. "when I think about it again, retiring really wouldn't be such a bad choice."
Hammond couldn't help but grin. Jack had been saying the exact opposite a few minutes before. That was, before he'd found out about the more-paperwork part of the deal in staying in the military... "Right, and how do you imagine that will happen?" he humored him.
"Oh, I'll just put in my retirement papers and a few months later I'll be a free man. Those diplomas of mine have to be good for something..."
He'd remembered those diplomas only now. Hammond read him like a book and he really hated raining on Jack's parade. Briefly though he couldn't help but wonder how Jennifer would react when she'd find out about Jack's education. Or Carter, for that matter, whom the ex-Colonel had forced to simplify her explanations dozens of times in the last 8 years. Hammond imagined she'd be pissed upon finding out Jack's IQ left hers in the dust and that he'd graduated with Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics and Astronomy and a Masters in Quantum Mechanics. Seemed all those times he'd gotten injured on a mission and spent weeks and months recuperating had been put to good use.
"Two words, Jack. Stop loss." Jack's face fell "You and Hailey both have them in your files. You didn't really think the Air Force would be dumb enough to let either one of you go, did you?" Jack's shoulders slumped in defeat. George leaned forward, trying to make it clear to Jack "Jack, you're both indespensible, the AF simply can't afford to lose either one of you."
"Great." retorted Jack dryly. Then, trying to redirect the conversation from this sour topic, he steered it back to the previous one "You didn't explain what kind of favor you're gonna do for us..."
"Oh." surprise reflected on Hammond's face, who then frowned upon realizing Jack was right "Okay, here's what I had in mind: we're gonna rattle the chain of command a little. With the exception of operational command over Hailey you're no longer her commanding officer. I am. This will come in force today. She'll report to me, I will do her fitreps and evals and all recommendations for promotions and awards. That way you are free to proceed whichever way you want."
"That would work." agreed Jack thoughtfully "Thank you, George."
Hammond nodded in acknowledgement to Jack's heartfelt gratitude.
"So, what do you think should Ido?"
Hammond frowned "In regards to what?"
"In regards to this whole situation between Hailey and I. I don't have a clue how to proceed."
The older man was touched Jack had turned to him for personal advice. They'd always been as close as a CO and 2IC can be, trusted each other, worked together well and he liked this manifestation of Jack seeing him as kind of a father figure, the one he came to for advice on love. He thought for only a second, since the solution was quite obvious, before declaring "I think you should marry her." that was delivered in a serious tone and it made Jack's jaw fall open.
"What!?" Jack gasped "Are you serious?"
"Perfectly." nodded his companion.
"But, but... She's twenty years younger!"
"And yet you got her pregnant... You obviously didn't think she was too young when you slept with her in the first place." the words were brutal, but honest and for the first time in their conversation Hammond showed disapproval.
"I know." Jack hung his head, shame filling his eyes.
With a gentler note Hammond soothed, feeling guilty for what he'd said and the way he'd said it. "Look, Jack, what I mean to say is that it's now too late to be thinking that way, thinking that she's too young for you. What's done is done, you've already slept with her once and now she's pregnant. She's carrying your baby, because of which the age difference doesn't matter anymore. Just imagine how it would look if some review board would go through the SGC or some politician would be looking for ammunition against you and the SGC. Try to imagine. The base's CO having seduced and then knocked up a young, pretty Lieutenant during their affair and now they're both still serving on the base, with the Lieutenant growing big daily. Neither of you could be prosecuted, because I've given you permission and she doesn't report to you, but this would prove invaluable as political ammunition. But the situation would be completely different if the CO and the young female officer are married while serving together on the same base, even though the husband is his wife's CO and over 20 years older. This wouldn't be just some lust-driven, sex-only, affair, but a real, longterm relationship, with love, trust, commitment and intention to stick together through the good and the bad and be together for the rest of their lives. There's a huge difference between these two possibilities and any board would see this difference between an affair and marriage. Hell, you'd be envied by everyone on any board that would try to find something. You'd have a very young, physically-very fit and beautiful wife, which is something those guys would give their arms for, and to sweeten the pot she's also extremely intelligent."
Still seeing a dubious, disbelieving look on Jack's face he sighed. "Okay, Jack, then tell me this: are you committed to her and the baby?"
It was a no-brainer. "Yeah."
"And how do you intend to raise it? Together? What do you want your role to be? One weeked every month? Will you be each living in your own place? Will you do the crap of shuffling the baby between you, one day you'd have it and the next Jennifer and then again you?"
Jack's expression showed his distaste for that idea.
"Or will you be a real father, a Dad, living together with the child and it's mother in one house, as a real family, as a family should be, will you be the Dad who is there for his child's every moment he can be, for his child's first steps, first words, first smile, potty training, first day at school, graduation, wedding,...?"
The dreamy expression on the younger man's face said it all. He'd missed so much of Charlie's firsts, something he'd never forgiven himself, and now he had a chance to do everything differently, better.
"That young woman is willing to have your baby, Jack, go through another 7 months of pregnancy and a painful labor to give you an heir and she will want and NEED a touchable, solid commitment from you, something she will be able to trust in, a binding legal arrangement that will make sure you'll be there when she needs you." to prod him more and appeal on the primal, possessive side of him he continued "What will you do if you don't make that commitment and a few years down the line she meets a man who will be willing to have her even with a kid? You'll lose your child and you'l lose the child's mother. Before you know it you'd be a weekend father and a few years down the line your child would be calling the other man Daddy. The only thing you'll have left is the obligation to pay child support and hear your kid refer to you as a dead-beat father. Are you willing to risk that happening?"
He saw the effects his words had on Jack as the other man literally flinched at the image George had painted of the possible future.
But would it be enough?
Finally Jack's shoulders slumped and he let his head fall, his chin touching his chest.
"No, I'm not." the words were so quiet Hammond had to strain to hear them, then sighed in relief at having saved a family.
Finally Jack looked up. "Once again, you're right, sir. I just haven't got a clue how to break the idea to her. She'll know I'm not proposing because I'm so deeply in love with her."
George smiled reassuringly "I'm sure you'll think of something, Jack."
"If she says 'yes' then we're gonna have to do some major paper-swapping. I don't want her reputation blemished. And it would be."
"Just what do you have in mind?" Hammond's voice was wary.
Jack was deep into making a plan and considering every possible factor. "I still have friends in the black community and most of them still owe me favors. Doing this wouldn't be hard for them."
Finally Jack remembered that Hammond was still there "Huh?"
"What exactly are you planning? And don't give me that face, Jack, out with it!"
Jack hesitated for a second, then remembered he could always trust Hammond with everything "If Jennifer says 'yes' and we get married, it'll have to be done quickly, before she starts showing, and privately so no-one will know our real wedding date. I'll get in touch with one of the guys I worked with before the SGC and they'll make sure to hook me up with a JoP or a priest on the Black Ops payroll, one who will put an older date on the marriage certificate. Then my friend will have the certificate filed with everything that goes with it, like application for the marriage certificate, blood test results, the whole thing, as if the wedding really took place on the day that we'll decide on. I'll organize a fake 'renewal of vows' after the baby is born to make it up to her for not having a real wedding."
George grimaced, not happy over such a manipulation of truth and the whole illegality of it, but knew it was for the best "What date are you thinking of exactly?"
"Not sure as to the exact date, but sometime between Jennifer's graduation from the Academy and her being accepted on an SG team."
"That's not a large time window."
"And it will make you into being married for 3 years now."
"Do you think anyone will believe it?"
Jack grinned, but it was weak "I was having a midlife crisis, remember?"
Nodding, George agreed, it could definitely be blamed on that. Many single men of over 40 get themselves either sports cars, motorcycles or young wives during their midlife crisis'. And some married men over 40 get themselves sports cars or motorcycles, which is incorrectly blamed on the midlife crisis. The simple fact and reason is that fast cars and bikes were something they had to give up because of kids and now that the kids are grown up and on their own, these man are free to get back the things they always loved, but had to reject for decades because of the fear that they'd leave dependant children behind if they died on the road.
"What will you tell SG-1?"
Even now, after so many months, Jack still winced when someone said 'SG-1' and not 'the rest of the team'. The loss of his field status and of the close relationships he'd had, in return for the command of the base and a much more distant relationship with the 3 people, since he now had several hundred under his command, was laying heavily on him.
"I don't know."
"You don't know?" Hammond's voice was incredulous, with his expression echoing the sentiment.
"The official version, I guess. That Jennifer and I've been married for 3 years..."
"Why not the truth?"
The answer was easy, because it was the truth and the real reason "To protect Jennifer. One of them, most probably Daniel, might let the truth slip to someone, you know how talkative and loud he is. Someone would be bound to overhear him talking to Carter or T. Daniel has brains, but for some strange reason completely lacks any common sense. Things that are self-understood to other people don't even occur to Daniel. And I don't want the team to think badly of Jennifer if they know we picked each other up at Carter's engagement party. They would either consider her a young stupid girl with a crush for her CO, or an easy woman who sleeps with different men all the time or a predator who slept with me only for advancement or got pregnant on purpose either for this reason or to entrap me. Plus, I don't want Carter to think I'm still pining for her, even after she got engaged." he shut up then, realizing he'd said too much.
He looked up, afraid to see rage on his superior's face, but could only see sadness "I've never forgotten the talks we had after the Za'tarc testing and the entity incident, Jack. Though, honestly, I have always expected for you two to be marrying each other when we'd get to see you two getting married. I have definitely never predicted you two would be getting married to other people. I never expected for Carter to drop you like hot coal and go to another man so easily. I was expecting one of you to come to me and ask for permission to be together for years."
"I would've, had Carter shown at least once that she wanted something with me. I would've come immediately, but she never showed anything. She's always behaved as if whatever she once felt for me was unwanted. Either because I was her CO, or because of who I am as a person."
Hammond considered for a second asking Jack why he hadn't tried to push the issue to finally know where he was standing, but decided to get off the painful subject. Besides, he already knew the answer.
Jack had been a coward, plain and simple, too terrified of a rejection to ask.
Had he asked for a clear answer, he would've probably been rejected. And had he not asked he could've lived indefinitely in the hope Carter had wanted him.
Denial is a double-edged sword: it can be a wonderful thing and it can be an instrument of an even greater hurt. Had he asked, that hope could've been destroyed. Jack had taken the safe, cowardly way out and decided to rather live in the fantasy than face the possible reality of Sam not wanting to have feelings for him and not wanting to act on those unwanted feelings.
They were both at fault, Carter for leading him on for years, before dropping him like a hot potato for another man, and Jack for being too much of a coward to act like a man and just act on his feelings.
"Okay, Jack, do what you think is right, I'll have your back." when Jack looked at him with a frown Hammon continued "I'll have both of your backs."
Jack's expression cleared and a small smile tugged at his lips "Thanks, George, you don't know what that means to me."
Hammond snorted "Oh, I think I do, Jack. Many people don't know, but Margaret was an NCO when we met and fell in love, about 3 years before you showed up in the rocket silo. She was the Peterson AFB CO's secretary and I met her when I had to deliver a message from my CO. We fell in love and, even though we knew it was against the regs, started secretly dating. Everything went fine until she got pregnant. Our CO's found out and we were almost courts-martialled. We would've been had my CO, Colonel Brissom, not convinced hers to let us be together. Only later did I find out Brissom's wife had been his secretary during WWII, so he himself had once been in our shoes. You can imagine my relief when we found out we not only wouldn't be courts-martialled or transferred far apart, but were also allowed to be together. I've never been so happy as when they told me I wouldn't be taken from Maggie and our baby. That's why I know exactly how you feel, son."
Jack was stunned, while he'd always known there had always been many cases of direct fraternization, the CO/subordinate and officer/non-officer kind with the couple being allowed to be together and then getting married, even though it was kept secret; he still hadn't known General Hammond had once been one of those people. Now it made sense why he hadn't broken up SG-1 the second he'd noticed unprofessional feelings between Jack and Sam.
"I'll make the calls and push the paperwork through immediately."
Then he noticed Jack's slightly dazed look and an amused, yet understanding smile grew "Jack." the younger man finally met his eyes "Go now. I'm sure Jennifer's waiting anxiously on your call. Go and tell her the good news." Jack rose, still in a fog "And, Jack!" Hammond called, causing Jack to stop and look back at him "Don't forget what I said, Jack. Now's not the time to get cold feet. If you're really serious about Jennifer and the baby and intend this to be for forever, don't hesitate. Get married soon and call in those favors, it'll make everything a lot easier for the two of you."
Jack nodded numbly, said his goodbyes and walked out, still not being able to believe that not only he wasn't being forced into retirement, but that he and Jen were free to be together and have a family.
As he walked to his limo a smile grew on his face and excitement came to life in his heart.
As soon as his ass hit the supple leather upholstery of the limo Jack was pulling out his cell-phone.
It rang only twice before a voice reminding him of warm honey answered professionally "Lieutenant Hailey speaking."
"It's me." Jack immediately replied, foregoing any names.
"Hi." Jennifer recognized his voice immediately and he could detect pleasant surprise in her own, together with anxiety and trepidation. In the background two lab assistants were arguing over something "Please wait just a moment so I can find somewhere more quiet."
Through the speaker he could hear the mother of his child say something to the two disruptive elements, then their voices became muffled as she moved into another room and closed the door.
"Okay, we can talk now." her voice turned openly worried "How did the talk with General Hammond go?"
The thought of dragging this out for dramatic effect didn't even occur to him, he he had a good idea she'd been on pins and needles for hours now "Everything's cleared, we have a go."
Jennifer's body sagged against a desk, the stiffness she hadn't been aware of leaving her in such a rush she felt dizzy for a moment. But that didn't matter, only the news she'd just been given mattered.
"We have a go? We do? Really?" Jennifer's voice became more excited by the second.
"Yup." Jack grinned "Look, stop by my place tonight and I'll tell you everything. I'm heading back to Andrews right now, called to make you stop worrying."
She definitely appreciated his thoughtfulness "Okay, see you at 2000?"
"See you then."
Disconnecting the line and pulling off her neat gadget Jennifer just sat there for a while, letting the news sink in.
For the first time since that night, for the first time since she'd realized she could be pregnant, Jennifer allowed herself to truly hope for a bright, happy future.
Haltingly her hand reached down, splaying over her belly. Another first. Until now she'd avoided bonding with her child, fears of having it taken away from her and the uncertainty of her situation having stopped her. With her trembling hand she caressed the spot under which the mix of she and Jack lay developing.
"You're not going to be born in prison and taken from me by the CPS, baby. Mommy and Daddy will take good care of you and give you all the love in the world. I love you already."
Sighing, she contemplated the fact that Mommy wasn't indifferent to her baby's Daddy either.
Shocked speechless Jen processed everything Jack had told her about his meeting with the SGC's former CO.
"Wow." she finally muttered when Jack finished his explanation, her hand absentmindedly rubbing her abdomen in what was now an instinctive motion and made Jack's eyes grow soft.
"Yeah." scratching his head he hesitated "Ahh." sitting down on the couch next to Jen Jack pulled something out of his pocket "Jen?" he called softly to get her attention. When her eyes snapped back to his he extended his hand and jumped right in "Will you marry me?"
Jen's eyes grew wide "Wha... What?"
"Will you marry me?" he repeated patiently.
Jen's brain was working furiously, trying all the angles why this was happening. "Why?"
Jack frowned "Why? Because I want to raise this baby with you. Because I never want to lose either one of you, to my stupidity or to another man. Because this baby and we as well, deserve a real family. Because I want to be married to you."
"Yes." Jen blurted out before she could even think about it.
When her heart and brain caught up with her mouth she realized she did want it. So what if he didn't love her? They'd be married and he would perhaps fall in love with her eventually. After his second phone call today she'd spent over an hour in her office, trying to figure out her feelings for him. She'd always known she'd nursed a crush and hero worship for him ever since that first mission, but it'd been a surprise when she'd realized that at some point along the way it had grown into more, into a mature quiet love of a woman who knew she'd never have the man of her heart. Then that night had happened and she'd found herself even more bound to the man who'd been her first, on a completely visceral, primal level. It was as if an invisible chemical bond had been created between them by the simple act of mating. And when she'd first seen that small curve to her usually flat belly, announcing to the world there was a baby there, Jack's baby, she knew she loved him.
And if the man wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, who was she to protest?
Jack's face showed surprise at her immediate answer, but then a small smile replaced it and he slipped the ring onto her finger. Jen's heart flipped at the sight of something as rare as a genuine smile on this handsome man's features.
Something occured to her then and her eyes narrowed "There's more to it, isn't there?"
Jack averted his eyes and picked up a pen off the coffee table to play with it in a nervous habit. "I was thinking it should be soon, as soon as possible."
"Why?" Jen's forehead wrinkled in confusion.
"I want all bases covered. I don't want any false rumors going around about you and people trying to disparage your rep. If you agree to get married soon, I'll have our records modified to show we've been married for years, just before you got transferred to the SGC."
"Wow, you really are serious about not wanting to damage my reputation, aren't you?" Jen breathed.
"Yeah, I am." Jack nodded
"But this would reflect badly on you because that would mean we've been married for years, immediately after I graduated from the Academy. They'd accuse you of robbing the craddle, of using your influence and rank to get me into your bed and so on." argued Jen.
"I don't care what they think about me, I never did." Jack paused for a second "No-one except Hammond is gonna know the truth about our marriage if you say 'yes', not even SG-1."
Jen's eyes grew wide at this piece of information "Not even LtCol Carter?"
"Not even Carter." shook Jack his head.
"But she'll think..."
"Yeah, I know." Jack cut her off "She can think whatever she want, Jen, just not anything bad about you."
"Wow." mumbled Jen again "So, you're okay with your old team thinking you've been lying to them for years, hiding something as big as a marriage?"
Jack sighed, shaking his head "I'm not happy about it, but I don't see any other way. Daniel can't keep a personal secret to save his life. If he doesn't reveal it straight out, then he would blab it out at the most inconvenient moment and someone would overhear him. Carter would probably accuse you of sleeping with me for professional advantage. And Teal'c... hm, come to think of it, he's the one we can tell, he wouldn't reveal it to anyone, not even Carter or Daniel."
"And how are you gonna pull that off?" asked Jen shocked, curious despite herself
"This country runs on paperwork. If there's enough redtape even a lie becomes a truth. And a truth can become a lie"
She looked at him dubiously, but he shrugged and gave her a winning look.
Her automatic reply was 'Always.' Thankfully she managed to stop herself from saying it, not wanting to come across like some besotted groupie.
Damn the man for playing that card. He knew she trusted him, otherwise she wouldn't have transferred over to the SGC, nor served under his direct command, nor made love with him, nor kept his baby, nor conceded to his plans, even accepting his marriage proposal, if it could be called that.
And to top it off he of course just had to use that charming smile that made women weak in the knees!
Predictably, she caved in. "Okay, call that friend of yours. I really am curious if we'll be able to get away with it."
A small smile tugged at his lips. "Yeahsureyabetcha!"
He pulled his cell-phone out, but stopped and locked eyes with her in an intensity she found unnerving. This man was such an enigma... one second he could be playful, the next deadly serious. While all she felt was that she could cry one minute, yell in rage the next one and then fall asleep. Damn these hormones.
"Jennifer, I really am sorry it has to be done like this, that your wedding will be a cloak-and-dagger affair conducted by some spook, with you marrying an old man, without even your friends there for you and that even your marriage certificate will be tempered with. I'll make it up to you for that, I promise, any way I'll be able to."
"How do you plan on doing that?" she sniffed, her hormones surging up again. Well, at least she hadn't had any morning sickness today...
"I was thinking renewal of vows after the baby is born." he admitted and she looked at him in shock, then asked herself why she was surprised at this manifestation of sensitivity to her feelings.
The man had been married before, his wife had loved him enough to give him a son, there had obviously been plenty of times he'd been open with his feelings. Not forgetting of course that he had to have had a way with words and been sensitive enough to have convinced Sara to go out with him in the first place, not to mention to have her fall for him and then marry him and of course to stay with him for so long...
"You'll have the free reign of everything. My only wish concerning the wedding will be for you to have the kind of wedding you've always wanted, your perfect wedding. You decide how you want it and I'll go along with it."
Her breath hitched. Was he really saying what he was saying? But he didn't even know what her dream wedding was.
He waved off her worry. "Don't worry, Lt., I've got plenty of money. Was on hazard duty pay for my entire career, have been single with nothing to spend the money on the last 8 years, I own the house, eat on the base, am barely at home, so the living costs are low, and at my rank and time in service my annual salary is well over 160,000$ with all the benefits. I can afford a wedding." then a pinched look came to his face "Well, unless it's a remake of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones' wedding. Or unless you become one of those brides obsessed with the perfect wedding, caring about nothing else. In those cases I'd be forced to take control."
She couldn't help but laugh at that.
"I'm serious." Jack defended himself. "Just the other day I saw a show about brides obsessed with their weddings. One has been planning it for 3 years before she got married."
Jennifer stopped laughing when she realized he was actually serious and looked at him wide eyed.
"She met her broom only 1 year ago."
That did it, Jennifer bent over, this time laughing much harder.
Becoming serious again he dropped the bomb he'd been preparing for a while "But I want a prenuptial contract."
Jennifer's laughter stopped abruptly and she stared at him "Wha...?." she drawled unsure.
"It will have only one line to which we will both agree."
She was on the edge of her seat, desperate to know what he was talking about.
"The agreement we will both sign is that there will be no divorce nor any other kind of legal separation, no matter what." his dead-serious eyes bored into hers as she gaped in surprise. This was the last thing she'd expected "If we do this, we do it right and for the rest of our lives, literally. Whatever problem pops up we keep at it until we solve it, together, and never go to bed angry, with unresolved issues between us. If necessary we convert into Orthodox Christianity and get married according to their customs. Whatever it takes."
Jennifer's head was spinning, only now was it sinking in just where her life was headed. If she did this, then this was it. Truly for life. The thought was a little scary. But wasn't what they'd already agreed on exactly this? The only difference would be the addition of rings and a new last name for Jen. Besides, she'd been wanting to have him just to herself for years now and she couldn't imagine spending the rest of her life with anyone else.
Gathering her composure she gave a quick, sincere nod.
Pulling his cell-phone out of his pocket Jack began to dial the number, then paused, his eyes piercing.
"Are you sure, are you absolutely sure?" he demanded "I'm giving you one last chance." Jack's eyes captivated her "If you want out, this is your last opportunity."
Jen shook her head, denying the possibility "No, I'm sure about it." smiling sheepishly she shrugged "It's just a lot to take in, but I am sure."
Searching her eyes, Jack finally nodded and finished dialing. The conversation didn't last long and soon Jack said his goodbyes with a pleased tone "See you in 7 days then, Bill."
"I guess we're getting married then." Jen commented when Jack pocketed the phone, giddy with anticipation, excitement, anxiety and an unindentifiable maelstrom of other feelings swirling inside her.
"Yeah, I guess we are." Jack echoed, scratching the back of his neck.
Before his eyes, Jen's briliant red cheeks slowly turned green and her sparkling eyes became panicked. Putting her hand to her mouth she looked around frantically.
Jack, drawing up the experience of Sara's pregnancy, quickly called "Second door on the right."
Before he could even move Jen darted into the hallway. By the time he exited the living room sounds of retching could already be heard from from the bathroom.
Pausing for just a second, Jack assumed his role and duties of an expectant father and husband for the first time in over 17 years. Stepping over to Jen where she was leaning over the bowl he gathered her hair to keep it out of her face and tried to lighten the situation "Well, this is the first time my proposal made a woman puke."
Jen looked back at him and rolled her eyes, before quickly turning back to the bowl to start praying again.
Noticing her knees begin to tremble from the effort and energy used up Jack repositioned himself. Stepping behind her he leaned forward and slung an arm over her belly, brushing against a small hard bulge, pressing her back against him to hold her up. Jen stiffened a little when she felt the curve of her butt fit perfectly against his groin and realized she was completely enveloped by him. Had anybody been looking down at them from above they wouldn't have been able to see Jen, her smaller body covered completely by Jack's. Feeling the strength in his body, the muscular male chest against her back, the thick forearm over her abdomen, her form so small in his complete embrace, Jen had never in her life felt more feminine than in that moment.
Soaking his heat and nearly overwhelming male presence like a starved sponge she reveled in the feeling of comfort and safety he provided. The morning sickness had hit her out of nowhere like a nuclear strike and it had seeped her of her entire energy reserves in a matter of minutes. Having felt her body begin to tremble, with her knees turning to jello, she'd known she wouldn't have been able to keep herself on her feet for long when she'd suddenly felt Jack surround her, his strong arm anchoring her to his body. After a moment's surprise gratitude had flooded her at the realization he'd taken the task of keeping her on her feet over from her.
It was a few minutes before the nausea abated and when it was over Jack flushed the toilet, closed the lid and sat down on it, hauling Jen onto his lap for her to get her strength back before moving.
Putting her head on Jack's chest, Jen snuggled into his heat, trusting him, as she shivered from exhaustion.
Weeks ago this had been something she would've never imagined doing with this man, but after all they'd been through together and after everything that'd happened and would happen, it would've been weird not to do this.
She felt the rumbling in his chest even before the words came out "We'll start moving your stuff into my house tomorrow, that okay with you?"
For a moment she was about to protest, that it was moving to fast and why should she give up her apartment, but then thought about it. They were getting married... er... when you thought about it, they were ALREADY married, have been for years and when she would no longer be able to hide her growing belly they'd have to come out with it. They'd already agreed to raise this baby together, the sooner they got the hassle of moving over with, the better. And Jack's house was the logical choice... her small apartment was obviously not big enough for a family of two, much less of three, and the kid would need a yard to play in.
So it was no wonder when Jen only nodded "Okay." and settled back against him.
After all, what is the point of being married if you don't let your spouse take your share of the worrying, by giving him absolute control, for a while?
"Jack!" Jen called, coming down the hallway of their house five days later. "Jack?"
After having spent so much time in his company his first name now rolled off her tongue as easily as if she had always called him that.
Turning into the study she caught sight of the man "Jack, I need to tell you something."
"Not now." Jack ordered.
"But..." she put her hands on her hips, temper bristling at being dismissed so rudely.
"Did you dial the Gate and try to establish radio contact, Lieutenant?" Jack barked into the telephone he held to his ear. With understanding dawning Jen went silent and her temper calmed down. Siddling closer to him she tried to listen in. These were her friends they were talking about, after all...
"Then do it!" Jack snapped into the phone and Jen reacted to the tone, instinctively straightening in her seat. "I'm on my way there."
Disconnecting the line Jack rose off his seat and made his way down the corridor to his closet to change into street clothes, Jen hurrying after him.
"Jack!" she called "What's wrong?"
"SG-7 is over-due for a check-in." he answered while getting dressed, too worried about the missing team to concern himself with false modesty. Not that Jen minded, of course, she was looking as attentatively as she was listening. "I have to go."
"I know." she replied simply and he looked up, eyebrows raised. Sara had been a good wife, but he'd never gotten any understanding nor support from her whenever duty had called him. This was something new, definitely a perk in getting involved with someone from the SGC or even the military in general. "Just be careful." she continued, looking at him with concern for him in those soulful eyes.
Warmth flooded his body at the look and words, it had been a long time since someone had cared about him and been concerned for him in the way lifemates do. It felt good, it felt really good, knowing you are the center of someone's world, that you are essential to them.
Seeing the worry in her eyes he knew he didn't have it in his heart to blow her off with a careless 'I always am.' or something like that. Having finished dressing he walked over to her "I will. Try not to worry too much." he whispered with a serious look.
Jen's dark eyes widened when Jack cupped her cheek and she instinctively leaned into the touch. The next thing she knew he kissed her lightly on the lips, not a romantic kiss, but a comforting one. Her lashes fluttered closed to enjoy it fully, but it was over almost instantly.
Her eyes opened, dark with disappointment at the kiss being so short, to find him standing two feet away. Turning he made his way out of the room and down the hallway to the main door "I'll be home as soon as I can, take care of yourself." he told her as she trailed behind him. Stopping at the door he turned around and placed a warm hand on her belly "And take care of Junior." He cut himself off then, a strange look coming to his face "Junior..." he muttered and shuddered "That is so wrong on so many levels." turning to her he pleaded "Please tell me we'll never call our child Junior." Confused she nodded, before she remembered that Jack was known for calling Teal'c's larva that name. She shuddered too.
Only when he was climbing into his truck did Jen remember her news "But Jack..." Jen called, but Jack didn't hear her, being too far away. "I forgot to tell you something..." she finished in a whisper as the truck pulled away with a wave from Jack, her hand drifting to her belly, a worried frown on her lovely features.
Jack got out of his truck exhausted and slowly trudged up the walk to his house. The day's events had been gruelling, especially for what had been supposed to be a relaxing Saturday at home with his fiancee.
When they'd finally found SG-7 the four-man team had been taking cover in a ditch, completely surrounded by natives possessing firearms technology. It had taken six SG teams to rescue the beleaguered team and after they'd gotten them back to the SGC the team CO, Major Harry Johnson, crashed twice on the operating table. He was now sharing the ICU room with his 2IC, Captain Bill Travis, who'd almost bled out from a hit to his femoral artery. The rest of the team, Lieutenant Jack O'Hara and Lieutenant Tom Sully, had been luckier, their wounds had been lighter. O'Hara had received a bullet to his right bicep, while Sully had been hit by a slug directly into his flak vest, which had knocked him off his feet, resulting in a broken wrist and a concussion. They were currently all in the infirmary, being looked after, together with members of SG-8, SG-12, SG-19 and SG-25 who'd been lightly injured in the firefight. Even though the whole affair had been one horrible mess Jack was grateful he wouldn't have to be writing letters to any families.
He was almost to the door when he was startled by a voice behind him. Cursing himself for allowing his guard to fall, he turned around.
Standing before him was a shorter, but heavier muscled man, about 10 years older than Jack. "You Jack O'Neill?" he demanded in a gruff voice, the tone immediately setting Jack's teeth on edge. There was anger in there and Jack's muscles tensed, preparing for a physical confrontation.
Jack's instincts had been correct because as soon as Jack confirmed his identity the man before him struck out, aiming for Jack's stomach. Having been prepared Jack exploded into action and quickly had the man immobilized on the floor, twisting his arm behind his back as Jack's knee dug into his opponent's spine.
"You bastard, let me go!" hissed the assailant.
"Yeah, right." Jack scoffed "First tell me who you are."
Called by the sounds of struggle Jen came running out of the house, her gun in her hand, ready to support her fiancee. She stopped for a second upon the scene on the grass.
When she heard the voice cursing at her fiancee/husband, she groaned and closed her eyes in misery. Securing her gun she put it in her hip holster and stepped to the two most important men in her life.
"Jack!" she called out, causing the heads of the both men to snap to her.
"Go inside, Jen." Jack ordered as the man beneath him made another try at shaking him off.
"I said, let me go." the unknown man ground out.
"Jack, let him go." Jen pleaded, coming closer.
Jack looked at her astounded "Are you crazy? He tried to hit me and you want me to let him go to make another try? Or worse, try to hit you?"
"He won't." Jen shook her head. Getting down on her knees beside them, ignoring Jack's tries to keep her away, she addressed the unknown man.
"You won't try to hit him again, will you?" when all she received was a stone face she gentled her voice into a tone that would make even a shy deer trust her "Promise me, Dad, promise me that you won't try to hit him again. Please, for me."
The stoney face softened "Okay, Honey, I promise." He never had been able to say no to her about something important.
"Dad!?" Jack repeated, looking at Jen shocked "This is your father?" letting go he moved away "You're Jen's father?" he asked, watching the older man get up on his own, refusing Jen's out-stretched hand.
"Yeah, I'm Joe Hailey." Jen's father growled as he brushed down the front of his clothes, glaring at Jack "And you're the bastard who knocked up my baby girl."
Jack winced, but their attention was taken off each other by the screech of tires. Looking at the drive-in they saw a rental car come to a violent halt.
"Joseph!" a woman about Jack's age jumped out of the vehicle and ran over to them "Stop!"
Stopping before them she looked frantically between the two men and shook her head in disappointment when she saw the grass tracks on the older man's clothes. She glared at him with a look that clearly said 'you and I will talk about this later.' He stared back at her stubbornly, knowing he'd been in the right. After all, no real father would take his daughter being used and knocked up by her CO without trying to make the bastard pay.
"Hi, mom." Jen piped up from beside her and when the older woman turned, they fell into a warm embrace. "Good to see you."
"You too, Honey." she said and then pulled back so she could look her daughter up and down "Look at you, you're glowing, pregnancy definitely agrees with you." she remarked warmly, as Jen blushed and her father glared at Jack, who was by now trying to disappear into the house.
"And you must be Jack O'Neill." she commented as she let go of her daughter and turned to Jack, preventing his escape.
"Then I must be." Jack replied uncomfortably as the woman embraced him quickly. He saw Joe scowl, while Jen smirked at him. She knew Jack it took a while before he was comfortable enough with a person to engage in close contact with them, while her mother was the most touchy-feely person she knew.
"Welcome to the family, Jack." Jen's mother smiled warmly as she let go, giving him her approval as her daughter's choice. "Oh, sorry for the lack of manners, my name is Nicole Hailey and you've already met my husband Joseph." again she sent a chastising glare at her husband.
"Nice to finally meet 'ya." Jack returned, glad that was over with "Why don't we go into the house and get to know each other better? After all, we're nearly family now."
Nicole smiled pleasantly and tugged her husband behind her, whom Jack gave a wide berth.
When Jen tried to slip into the house, he stepped in front of her, cutting off her escape. Looking at him with a sheepish grin she tried to act innocent.
"And you... You and I have some things to talk about..." he raised his eyebrow.
"Sorry. That's what I was trying to tell you earlier today when you got that phone call." she apologized "But then you had to leave and..."
Waving his hand he dismissed her worry "That's okay, I can understand that." looking around to check no-one was listening he whispered "But are there any brothers I need to worry about too?"
Jen smiled slowly, the smile of a person who knew they had the upper hand. Sauntering closer to Jack, she walked two fngers up his chest before finally meeting his startled gaze. Pressing her body against his fully, feeling his hands fall automatically on her hips, she whispered "That, my dear General, you'll find out if you're good tonight." Rising on her toes she pressed a quick kiss on his cheek and quickly slipped by him, making sure to keep body contact as long as she could, back into the house.
Leaving Jack to stand in his front yard stunned to the spot, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened.
"I couldn't help but notice something about your parents." mentioned Jack hours later as they were sitting on the couch in front of the fire, after her parents had left for Jen's old apartment where they'd be staying until after the wedding. Even though Jen hadn't explained it, but Jack could still feel she felt awkward in their relationship, almost as if she didn't know what to do sometimes or how to act. So he let her set the pace and currently she was trying out what leaning against him, while his arm was around her shoulder, felt like. Considering she was giving no indication of moving Jack felt it was safe to say she liked it.
Privately Jack hadn't expected Joe to be at all happy his daughter was marrying an older guy, who was, to top it off, her boss as well. Sara's father Mike had also been a little cold to him for the first few years. Not that Jack could blame either of these men, since he had that badboy quality to him together with the shady past, both of which always go unappreciated by fathers of any daughter interested in such a man. Rightfully so, in Jack's opinion.
Nor had Joe been thrilled about the circumstances of the coming marriage. Jack had to hand it to him, though, the older man hadn't done anything that would upset the two women, instead he had ambushed Jack when he had been returning from the bathroom.
"Why?" Joe demanded, launching right in.
"Why why?" Jack looked confused.
"You say you've got your boss' permission, which is you claim the only thing needed, so why then go through so many problems and complications, like back-dating your marriage?"
"To protect our and the program's reputations." Jack answered simply.
"You mean to protect your own reputation." Joe accused.
"Nope." Jack shook his head "See, here's the problem. It's all connected. If we don't go through all this then someone who has it in for the program will try to use Jen and I to discredit it and bring it down. I know you don't buy that bullshit that's our cover story and everything about is top secret, but I can tell you it's very important. Not just to a few select people who have jobs because of it, but internationally important. Vitally important to our survival."
Joe's eyes narrowed "This sounds suspiciously like one of those conspiracy theories." Jack's answer was a steady look "Okay, I'll drop it." Joe finally decided, after a minute of trying to decypher Jack's eyes.
Jack sagged in disbelief.
"I know you don't like me." Jack continued, knowing this was something they'd have to get over with as soon as possible "I honestly don't even expect you to, never have. I'm stealing your baby girl from you and it's natural you'll resent me for that. But I just want a chance to prove that Jen is the most important factor when I make any decision. Everything I do now is with her foremost in my mind. For the sake of Jen, the baby and your wife I ask for a cease-fire."
Joe mulled it over for a second, then nodded and extended his hand for Jack to shake "You know, Jack, if you hadn't knocked up my baby I would've probably liked you."
Jack grinned, taking the offered hand "You'll still like me, I can assure you. I grow on you, like a fungus."
Joe chuckled and turned back to return to his, their, family.
"Like what?" asked Jen innocently.
"The age difference..." Jack raised his eyebrow down at her, daring her to continue playing dumb.
"Oh." she nodded thoughtfully.
"Oh?" he repeated "That's all you gonna say?"
Jen shrugged "What is there to say? They met when Mom was 17 and Dad 30. She was underage which is why he didn't even notice her. She told me she couldn't wait until she was 18 and when she was of legal age she went into a full-on assault. It still took a while before she got him to notice her as a woman. She was constantly frustrated because he was hesitant of getting involved with someone so young. In the end she had no choice but to corner him into going out with her, cause she knew that was the only way. He didn't even ask her, she asked him and didn't give him a choice. Three years after they first met they got married and a year after that I was born."
"Hm." Jack grunted, looking down at her.
Her eyes narrowed when she realized what he was thinking "Get that thought out of your head! I don't have a thing for older men, especially not through genetics!"
Jack held his hands up in surrender "Okay, okay, you don't!"
"Genetics have nothing to do with why I slept with you." Jen murmured softly, leaving Jack with something to ponder.
"What about your parents, your family?" she continued a few minutes later as she played with the buttons on his shirt "Why haven't we heard from them yet?"
Jack sighed, running a hand down his face. He'd known this would come up, but it still didn't make it any easier "Because I haven't told them."
"Because I don't exist as far as they're concerned." seeing Jen's gaze demanding explanation he continued, however reluctantly "I've been a big disappointment for them Jen, so much so that they disowned me and washed their hands off of me."
She snorted disbelievingly "You, a disappointment? You're a General..."
"Exactly." Jack pointed out, eyebrow raised.
"Explain!" she demanded since he was making no sense.
"My parents are very strict Catholics. I'm the black sheep in my family, since I've always been different from them or from my brothers and sisters. I'm a disappointment because I didn't become neither a cop nor a priest, as it was usual in my family. That was enough to strain our relations almost to the breaking point. I'm also a divorcee who killed his own son. A divorce is almost a mortal sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church and, not only was I responsible for the death of their grandchild which is another thing they'll never forgive me, I also brought shame on their family by divorcing my wife. So they disowned me and cut me out of their family." finishing his story he looked away, unable to meet her gaze, this being the first time he'd shared his story in it's entirety. Not even Daniel knew half of what he'd just told Jen, but then again Daniel was only his friend. Girlfriends and especially wives have the right to a lot more information than mere friends.
Jen didn't know what to say. Her family had always been close and she simply couldn't imagine anyone doing that to their own child or sibling.
She knew there were no words to properly transmit her sorrow for him, so she decided to show him instead.
Jack was for a moment startled when Jen suddenly embraced him tightly and he looked down, seeing her face pressed into his neck. She was giving no indication she'd let go anytime soon and almost against his will his own arms slowly, haltingly reached around her and pulled her into him.
It had been a looooong time since anyone, much less a woman, had shown this kind of caring and he had simply forgotten what it's like to be on the receiving end of it. But what surprised him most was that this wasn't pity or that fake 'if you need anything...', but this was actually another person hurting because he was hurting, another person feeling his pain as if it was her own.
Letting out a deep sigh his body finally relaxed and gently he leaned his cheek against the crown of her hair, just enjoying the emotional and physical warmth she provided so selflessly.
They held on to each other long into the night.
"You're transferring me out of the SGC!?" Jen yelled as soon as she entered the house, angrily slamming the door.
Finding her fiancee/husband/whatever in the kitchen she immediately started on him, in her hand shaking the papers that contained her new orders "How could you do this to me!?" she was mortified to hear her voice shake and thicken with threatening tears.
Jack looked at her half-guiltily "You know I had to, Jennifer." he tried to reason with her.
"I'm not an invalid, Jack!" she spat out his name "I don't have to be transferred out like one."
Jack winced, this was quickly turning into a fight, a fight he didn't want. Jen was pregnant, she was hormonal, her moods changed like the weather in Spring, but this time she was truly upset, and with good reason. Yet even though she had a good reason the increase in her blood pressure was still unhealthy for her and the baby, which was just one of the reasons he wanted to end this ASAP.
Still, she looked cute, looking up at him, glaring. She reminded him of a kitten trying to intimidate someone. Um... scratch that... she didn't look like a kitten, she looked damn hot, her cheeks and neck flushed dark red, sweat glistening her fair skin, eyes blazing, her chest heaving and her nipples tenting the T-shirt. She looked like she was in the middle of a hot, wild, sweaty sex. Jack was turned on big time.
"No, you're pregnant." he stated as calmly as he could, barely holding himself back from ravaging her "You know the protocol. You can't serve on an active team, you'd be a liability. To yourself, to the baby, to the team, to the program and to the whole goddamn military. The labs aren't safe either, if another foothold happens you'd be trapped with us and I don't even want to think about the ways the enemy could use you."
Jen fumed. Rules? Protocol? Ba! It didn't have anything to do with rules or protocol, it had everything to do with him being a jackass. And she didn't mind telling him that in the least.
"You're a jackass." she confirmed with a calm voice, substantiating it with a confident nod.
"Perhaps I am." Jack nodded back "But I'm a jackass who cares about you and who doesn't want you to get hurt."
Her shoulders slumped as the fight left her upon hearing his honest statement. Even had his warm, affectionate gaze not disarmed her she still wouldn't have had a comeback.
"Look, Jen." he continued in a soft voice "You're being transferred to the Academy. You'll have your own, private office there and will be working with NASA, NORAD and other agencies on projects that have to do with astrophysics, but that won't put you or the baby in danger. It's not as if it's forever... Just for the next 7 months and after you come back from your maternity leave you'll be free to return to the SGC. Just hold out for these 7 months." he entreated.
Shaking her head in resignation, resignation into the impact he had made with his words and resignation into her transfer, she turned and left to go change her clothes.
Looking after her Jack let out a big breath. He knew she was still angry at him and that it would last a while.
Stupid BUPERS, why couldn't they have dragged on with this like they usually do?
And to think... tomorrow they were getting married.
Jack wasn't sure of the exact reason for Jen having spent the night at her old apartment with her parents, whether she was still angry at him or wanted to uphold the tradition, but he had no intention of asking anytime soon. Or ever, for that matter. Sometimes ignorance truly is a bliss.
Getting up at 7 he was dressed and showered at 8 when the catering people came to set up everything, occasionally having to field threatening phone calls.
Ever since he'd woken up he had been feeling weird over being at home during a workday, but it couldn't be helped. This was the soonest Bill could set everything up and it had to be during the week so the papers could be filed and their records altered immediately. He decided not to lose thought on how strange it seemed to have been married for years now without having gone through the ceremony nor having signed the papers yet.
He couldn't help but worry about what was going on at the SGC, but Jack knew Reynolds was a good commander and would have no problems filling in for Jack. He took a moment to ponder the fact that he was worried about the SGC, while on the other hand his hands didn't even shake at the thought of today being his wedding day. Jen was a wonderful woman, if a little temperamental and sometimes arrogant, but he wasn't ready yet to believe he wasn't nervous because she was the one, not yet. His calmness was simply because of having enough experience in weddings... And he studiously ignored how that sounded.
There wasn't that much to set up, since they were having only 4 guests and by 0930 Jack was ready to go let in his guests.
Jen was tilting between being a nervous wreck and inner peace. She was sure this was how a person who knows they're about to die, feels. A sense of resignation... no, not resignation, but at peace with what was about to happen.
Standing in her bedroom, wearing nothing but white silk underwear, she put a hand on her belly where a bulge was already visible.
' Yes, this is the right thing to do.' she thought as she caressed the skin over her baby. Her child deserved a real family, a normal and most importantly a stable life and full childhood. Whenever she'd in her life given a thought to her own wedding she'd never had a clue what she'd be feeling. Her friends had all been bubbling with nerves on their wedding days, one of them, Tina, had actually thrown up on her groom's shoes when they'd been about to say their vows. She hadn't been pregnant, just a nervous wreck.
She put on the lovely white summer dress she'd bought on Saturday, the dress that was to be her wedding dress, and let her mother fuss over her hair. They still had 2 hours to go and her parents were acting as if THEY were getting married. Her mother was twittering around her like a squirrel on Speed and her father had already called Jack twice to threaten him with death if he planned on making a run for it.
A wave of gratitude and love for her parents washed over her again, causing her eyes to fill with tears. She quickly beat them down before her mother saw them and jumped to (wrong) conclusions.
Outside she could hear her father walking around and muttering something about women and taking so long to get ready. Meeting her mother's eyes the two women chuckled, secretly admitting he was right. They always HAD taken longer to get ready than he, but such are the facts of life.
Finally they were ready and Jen couldn't stop her jaw from dropping when she took her first look at the amazingly gorgeous woman staring back at her from the full-length mirror. She'd always known she had a great figure, especially for such a small person, thanks to the USAF, but this was the first time she could see it's effect in full. The white silk summer dress definitely emphasized her curves and slimness in the right way.
"Wow." she muttered.
"You're gorgeous, honey." her mother confirmed, smoothing out the dress one last time even though it was unnecessary "Jack won't know what hit him when he sees you."
Jen felt herself blush "Mom..." she moaned. They'd already had this talk.
"I know you said you're getting married only because of the baby," her mother replied patiently "and I'm still disappointed in you for not using protection, but considering how nicely it turned out maybe it's for the better."
Jen was about to demand explanation on the "nicely turned out" part, but Nicole had already beat her to it.
"Not only have you finally found someone to spend your life with and who'll make you happy, something your father and I have already given in to believing would never happen, but you're also marrying the man you've been in love with for years. If you'd used protection and not gotten pregnant you would still be alone and miserable right now, not getting married and expecting a baby, and god knows you'd never get another chance with him again, considering he's your boss."
"Now wait a minute, mother..." Jen started to protest, but Nicole waved her off.
"Don't try denying it, honey, your feelings for the man have been obvious from the first time you mentioned a Colonel O'Neill. I knew then you'd finally met the one man who'd make your heart beat faster, whether you knew it or not at the time, but it was a bittersweet knowledge because I knew nothing would happen as long as he was your CO. Something that seemed unlikely to change anytime soon. But even if it changed I had a feeling you'd be too shy to make your interest known to him." pausing for a second she delivered what she considered the best part of it all "And you want to know the best part? That man isn't indifferent to you either."
That took Jen by surprise, but all too quickly she came back to Earth "You're wrong, Mom," Jen sighed "He doesn't love me, he loves Lt Col Carter. I'm just the conzolation prize." The sadness and wistfulness in her voice rang through clearly.
Nicole's eyes blazed with anger at her daughter's stupid talk.
"Get this stupid idea out of your head right now, Jennifer Hailey!" she demanded, grabbing Jen by the shoulders and shaking her lightly to make her understand "Yes, maybe he was in love with her once, possibly also for a long while, but that's over now. You said the woman dumped him for some cop a while back, the cop she's now marrying, and having gotten to know Jack I also know he's much too down to Earth and realistic kind of guy to continue pining for her. Nor does he look like the kind of a guy that takes sex easily. Sure, his sleeping with you on Carter's engagement party isn't really a good endorsment, but did you for one second consider the possibility he slept with you only because he wanted to and the alcohol just gave him the courage to make a move and not because Carter was getting married?"
Jen went silent and Nicole could see that huge brain working feverishly. She decided to give her a couple more figurative pushes.
"I saw his eyes when he looked at you" she continued with a soft voice "and that kind of tenderness can't be faked. If he isn't in love with you already then it won't be long before he is."
Quickly embracing her daughter she then held her at arm's length to look into her eyes, for a better impact of her words, as she tried desperately to give her daughter the wisdom needed to prevent any stupid decisions in the future "Don't let your insecurities ruin this for you, honey. You've got a wonderful man, who even intends to expose himself to public disapproval to protect you and the baby. And you're having a child with the man you've been loving for years. This is more precious than anything in the world, anything. Grab hold of it tightly and never, ever, let go. Do you understand?"
Jen saw the truth in her mother's eyes "I promise." she vowed softly and her eyes moistened "I love you, Mom." she choked out.
Nicole pulled her into another strong hug "I love you too, Honey."
Hearing a sniff she pulled back from her daughter. "Don't start crying now, you'll ruin your make up." she chided, laughing softly "Now, what do you say we get you married? Jack must be climbing the walls by now."
Jen giggled and followed her mother out the door. They met her father who bent down to give her a hug too "You look beautiful, baby." the situation getting too emotional for him he pulled back and straightened out "Now, lets get going, you two took so long we'll be late."
Rolling their eyes at him, the two Hailey women still followed him out the door, Jen ready to meet her destiny.
Arriving at Jack's house, they gave a honk to let Jack know they'd arrived.
Passing the house Jen lead her parents around and directly to the backyard. Before they got in view her father stopped her and with a smile took her hand in his in the traditional way.
Rounding the building Jen gasped when everything came into view.
A small, white, portable gazebo stood in the middle of the backyard, decorated with flowers, the JoP and Jack already waiting under it. In front of the gazebo sat a row of 4 chairs, where a man she'd never met sat with Lieutenant General Hammond.
Jen and Joe stopped in front of Jack and the JoP who asked "Who gives this woman away?"
"I do." Joe said simply, putting Jen's hand in Jack's and stepped away.
Jen was looking a little bewildered at the whole thing, not having expected such an elaborate production.
Jack leaned in and whispered to her "I thought you deserved at least as close to a normal wedding as possible."
Jen smiled a watery smile, tears of happiness shining in the corners of her beautiful eyes "Thank you." she whispered hoarsely.
"Don't mention it." Jack shuffled uneasily, uncomfortable with Jen making a big deal out of it. It wasn't a big deal, he just wanted to give Jen a nice wedding and not just some signing of the papers...
"We ready?" asked the man and Jack nodded.
"We are gathered here today..."
Jen tuned him out as she carefully studied the man about to become her husband. True, he was older, those mathematically-challenged would say he was twice her age (but for him 52 was still far away), true, he was a little rough around the edges, no "90's guy" read emo guy who cries when someone calls him a douche, he had problems expressing his emotions occasionally; but he was a good man, one of the best she knew. She couldn't have wished a better father for her child and a better husband for herself.
No, she was most definitely NOT making a mistake tying her life to his forever.
"Jack, you entered my life out of the blue," she began when it was her turn to say her vows and they both smiled knowing she meant the event horizon "and completely turned it around. The first few hours of our acquaintance are something I'll never forget." Jack smirked, fighting for your life is certainly something one will never forget "You challenged me and made me grow, as a person and as an officer. Marrying you is the best decision I've ever made and I'll stand by you for the rest of our lives, no matter what may come."
Jack was deeply touched, he knew she meant everything she'd said. How was he going to top that?
"Jen, when we met I was less than impressed, you were short, arrogant and had a superiority complex." he started and watched Jen's eyes widen in shocked disbelief, accompanied by offended gasps of her parents and a shocked one of the JoP. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Hammond and Bill smiling expectantly, knowing him too well to believe it would stay like that "But after those first few hours I stood corrected. Well, not about the superiority complex," Jen chuckled, she HAD been a little too arrogant.. "But you proved you had what it took to get the job done and you could follow orders. Since then I watched you grow and it honored me I had a part in the process. Now that we're embarking on this new adventure in which I hope we'll be just as successful, I want you to know I'll always be right there for you, protecting you, even if evil aliens try to enslave us." Jen chuckled at his words, then even more at the perplexed looks of the rest of the guests, sans Hammond. Jack grew serious and looked her deep in her eyes.
"Always." he repeated solemnly, willing her to believe him.
And believe him she did because she knew him and she knew he'd just made a promise and a vow to her. She also knew he'd do whatever it would take to make sure nothing ever happened to her and their child and would do anything to keep his word.
The rest of the ceremony went by in a blur for Jen and she was still half admiring her rings when the JoP said the words all newlyweds love to hear.
"With the power invested in me by the state of Colorado I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."
Turning fully to each other Jack slipped his arms around her back and pulled her closer to him while Jen put her hands on his shoulders.
Slowly they closed in, their eyes fluttering closed. Their lips brushed only experimentally before they locked onto each other's. Unexpectedly passion took them over and they forgot the rest of the world.
They only came back to the here and now when Joe, seeing his throat clearing wasn't working, gave Jack a not-so-gentle nudge in the kidneys.
Their lips parted and for a second they gazed into each other's eyes with a surprised glaze, neither having expected such a result. Only now was Jack getting an inkling as to how they could've gotten so swept away that they'd had sex that night. Now it was obvious, there was some very powerful chemistry between them. Had they right now been drunk and had no-one been around to stop them he was sure that by now they would've already been tearing each other's clothes off.
"Allow me the honor to present to you for the first time in public, General and Lieutenant Jack O'Neill!" he exclaimed and everyone clapped and cheered their approval. The guests finally came to them to wish them all the best.
Shaking Jack's hand, Joe muttered lowly "Maybe I was wrong about you after all."
Then he moved on to kiss Jen on her cheek and wish her congratulations, while Jack caught a glimpse of Hammond watching them with a deeply thoughtful and speculative look, before being accosted by Nicole who hugged him fiercely, still on the adrenalin from the wedding.
"Welcome to the family, Jack." she whispered fiercely, then let him go.
"Um, thanks." Jack mumbled, still a little in shock over the hug.
"Nicole." she smiled "Call me Nicole."
"Thanks, Nicole." Jack smiled.
"Right." she looked around
Nicole moved on, repeating the same procedure on Jen, before grabbing the JoP to sign the certificate as one of the witnesses as Jen had asked her to do it.
Looking back Jack found Hammond standing before him, a friendly smile on his face as he shook Jack's hand "Congrats, Jack. I truly hope everything works out for the best and I have a feeling it will." leaving Jack with that statement he wished Jen all the best too, then moved off to sign the certificate as a witness for the groom.
Looking up at Jack surprised, Jen silently asked for an explanation "I asked him to be my witness. He's been a father figure to me while at the SGC, besides, it's better if his signature is on it, it gives our story more weight and credibility, especially if anyone goes to check it out. Plus, that way he can also say he was aware of the relationship and marriage from the very beginning."
Jen smiled "General Hammond is a good man, I've always liked him."
The stranger was the next and last person standing before them "Congratulations, Jack, it was a great wedding."
"Thanks, man." Jack responded and turned to Jen to introduce his friend.
"Jen, this is Bill Jenkins, a good friend of mine from my past days at the Air Force. He's a good man to have on your side, especially if he owes you favors." Jack grinned mischeviously. "Bill, this is Jennifer Hailey... er... Jennifer O'Neill now."
Sending Jack a look Bill turned to Jen and shook her hand too "Honored to finally meet you, Mrs O'Neill. Any woman that can take on Jack O'Neill and not be overwhelmed deserves my deepest respect."
"Please call me Jen." she smiled at him "It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it." they both ignored Jack's indignant 'hey!' "Thank you for everything, Bill."
"No problem, Jen." Bill returned her smile before saying to Jack "I'm gonna run now to get these papers filed properly."
Jack frowned "You sure you don't want to stay for food?"
"Yes, please stay." Jen joined her husband, grinning "You can give me some dirt on Jack."
Bill laughed "Okay, if you insist then I'll stay. And you've turned to the right man, Jen." he winked at her conspiratorially "If anyone can get you dirt on Jack, it's me."
Jack groaned miserably while the two laughed.
But even though he knew Jen would be getting plenty of ammunition he couldn't help but be happy. For the first time in a very long time was his private life looking bright again.
He loved it when a plan came together.
It was finally time for Jen's first prenatal check-up. After having thought it through they'd decided the void Brightman's referral and found an obstetrician on their own. The background checks had taken a bit of time as they'd been very thorough, but they'd wanted the doctor to be clean and without ties to anyone unwelcome. The other reason was they didn't want the doctor accidentally revealing the identity of Jennifer's husband, her baby's father, to Brightman in a conversation, if the two doctors knew each other, which would've been the case with Dr Jamison, the doctor Brightman had referred Jen to. The identity of the father didn't fall under doctor-patient confidentiality and since a marriage is usually quite public and open, the slip could've happened quite easily, for example Dr Jamison wondering why Dr Brightman hadn't mentioned that Jennifer's husband is a General.
And if Brightman would find out it would be only a matter of time before the nosy, gossiping nurses at the SGC would find it out too. And if those nurses would know, then it would be only a matter of minutes before the entire SGC would know, hours before the entire world and a day before the galaxy.
Which had led them to seek out the services of a civilian doctor, one who had come highly recommended by Jack's contacts. Contacts Jack had kept alive through the years, even after he'd no longer been active in Black Ops. The saying was true: there's no such thing as ex-Black Ops.
Many people owed him favors and when it came to his family Jack wasn't shy in calling in those favors.
So when his contacts had come through and recommended a Doctor Kelly, Jack knew he could trust them, which is how he and Jen had ended up in this waiting room with other couples.
Looking around Jack saw people in various stages of expectancy. There were the requisite newly minted parents, still scared and holding each other's hands tightly and others obviously not quite so thrilled to be thrust into this predicament, next were the old hands in the baby-making business, who's calmness and serenity, coupled with quiet happiness, immediately gave them away. It jumped as strange to Jack, however, since this was such a highly sought-after doctor who must had his pick of patients, that there was also a teenaged couple, their wide eyes gazing around with terror. What set them apart noticeably from others was along with age the fact that for them a baby would be a catastrophe, while for the other couples there it would be an unpleasant situation at worst and joy at best. There was one thing that was common for them all, however, and that was the fact that both partners in every couple were of a similar age and it made Jack and Jen stick out like a sore thumb. Yet, no-one was commenting on it and they all had the same pleasant expressions when they talked to the O'Neills. Jack had a feeling why that was so, and so did Jen, and neither particularly liked it.
Almost on the minute accurately the receptionist nurse called out for Jennifer O'Neill.
Jack got up and moved to follow Jen into the doctor's office, when his path was blocked by the nurse, who glared up at him.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait for your daughter out here." she demanded, crossing her arms over her chest, a look of disgust on her face at what she thought he wanted.
Jack and Jen froze, their faces paling. Jen's features then quickly turned red in embarrassement and she looked down to hide her face. On the other hand Jack's visage became the epitome of calm, only the rapid beating of a vein on his forehead belying his upset.
"Jen is not my daughter, she is my wife." he stated firmly. Suddenly the atmosphere in the waiting room changed completely, the temperature dropping significantly. The other patients who had been so friendly before, but now he could feel their cold and disapproving looks on his back.
Turning around he widened his stance, put his hands on his hips and inflating his chest to make himself even more intimidating boomed out "Anyone got anything to say?" his glare went from one person to the next until he had looked at everyone there.
They were lucky they were all smart enough to know when to shut up and Jack nodded satisfied when the last one had averted their eyes, unwilling to challenge this frightening man, who gave off a dangerous vibe. Not the kind gang-bangers or psychos give off, but one of a professional killer.
"Good." he commented and turned to Jen, who's face was burning, leading her into the exam room with a hand on the small of her also-small back.
It didn't take long for another nurse to join them, who took Jen through the routine, taking her blood pressure, weight, height,... and asking her questions, things that Jack still remembered from Sara's pregnancy.
Meanwhile the man himself was sitting in a chair, quietly observing the procedure with the nonchalance of someone deep in thought, absently aware of the occasional glance the nurse threw him.
The nurse's glance weren't necessarily a matter of the gossip having already spread, but because the age difference between him and Jen was quite apparent and also something he'd always known would lift eyebrows and have tongues wagging all the time, by people who should really mind their own business.
The nurse was done quickly and Dr Kelly entered the room. The man was about 40 and exuded at the same time professionalism, competence and warmth that left no doubt why he was so highly esteemed. He was the type of a doctor even husbands and boyfriends trusted with caring for their women, because they instinctively knew he wasn't a sleaze, in the business only to get a cheap thrill. Or worse. That didn't mean the men were happy with another man looking and touching the private parts of their women, but their first reaction wasn't to punch Kelly in the face and drag their wives off to a female doctor.
Soon Jen was on the table having her belly measured.
Dr Kelly was making notes when he asked them both "And you're sure about the date of conception?"
"Yes." Jen nodded for them both "It was the only time we were unprotected."
"Hmm." Kelly nodded and scribbled something down, before moving off to push the ultrasound machine to the bed.
"What do you say we take a look at the future O'Neill?"
As Jack and Jen voiced their agreement Kelly got to work. Soon, Jen's belly was exposed and the ultrasound wand was passing over the small expanse of skin. Watching the little bulge there Jack had to squeeze his hand into a fist to stop it from following the wand's path, stroking that seductive expanse of skin. The fact that his child was growing in there had the same powerful effect on him as it had had during Sara's pregnancy.
When his eyes returned from the trip to Jen's taut belly he noticed the frown on the Doctor's face "What is it?"
Kelly sighed and looked at them both "Are there any cases of multiple pregnancies in your families?"
Understanding dawned in their eyes and their eyes met, a mixture of confusion, fear and anticipation.
"I'm an only child." Jen was the one to answer "And there are no multiples in Jack's family."
Good thing they'd talked about it weeks ago, because otherwise she wouldn't have known about it. All of Jack's two brothers and two sisters had been born one at a time.
"Are you saying we're having twins?" Jack's voice was filled with warring emotions and he truthfully didn't know how he felt about it.
Sure, it'd be great because he wouldn't be too old by the time they'd have more kids if it had been just one, but he was afraid of the additional pressure to his and Jen's new relationship. The news was not so much a surprise to him however, he had already noticed Jen's belly was too large for what had been supposed to be only her second month when she shouldn't have been showing at all yet. But, since he'd been unwilling to stress Jen with suspicions for which he'd had no proof, he had kept it to himself.
"Not two." replied Kelly and brought the wand back to Jen's belly "Three." he turned on the sound and three fast heart-beats filled the room as he began pointing them out.
Tuning the doctor out, Jen paled with fear of the enormity of her situation, while Jack was looking down at her in trepidation. Looking at her small frame in trepidation, to be exact. Jen was a very small woman and carrying multiples is taxing even on larger women.
Finishing the examination and letting Jen clean up and get dressed, Dr Kelly addressed the O'Neills, looking uncomfortable "This poses a problem, a great one in fact." two sets of brown eyes became even more solemn "The simple fact of the matter is, Jen, that your body wasn't made for multiples. It's small as it is in general, your hips are too narrow, together with your pelvis, to guarantee a smooth pregnancy, much less delivery. There exists a strong chance the babies will be born under-developed and must assuredly they'll be underweight. As such, their chances of survival are smaller than they'd be ordinarily. The fact that you are young and fit helps, but it isn't everything. As much as I hate to do it, I am obligated to recommend aborting at least one if not two while there's still a chance to give the rest the biggest chance to survive possible."
"What is the other option?" asked Jack, Jen holding on to his hand with a desperate strength, tears already welling in her eyes.
The doctor looked grim "We make sure they have the best chance possible for survival they can." turning to Jen he explained gently "It means you will have to go on bed-rest at 5 months at the latest, but probably already next month. And that means rest."
"I'm not gonna do it." Jennifer ranted passionately once they were alone again. "I didn't decide to do this, have a child, re-arranged my entire life, only to do now what the easy option was at the beginning. I'm gonna have these babies, every last one of them, no matter what it takes, even if I have to be strapped to a bed for months and even if I have to seize the Gate to get in touch with either the Tok'ra or the Asgard for help and nobody will be able to stop me, not even you." she glared at him as if he was already trying to stop her with a gun in his hand.
"I won't be trying to stop you, because I'll be right there with you taking over the Gate." he vowed fiercely.
Hearing Jack's sincere declaration the tension in her small shoulders eased and a soft, grateful smile curved her lips as a small sniff escaped.
Knowing she was upset and needed comfort Jack opened his arms and said only "C'mere."
Hesitating only for a second she sighed gratefully as Jack's strong arms wrapped themselves around her, folding her into his warm embrace.
He held her tight for long minutes, feeling her jerk with emotions and suppressed sobs, while he rubbed her back soothingly, murmuring softly into her ear.
"It's okay, it's gonna be okay." he whispered and in response Jennifer tightened her arms around him "The next time we hear from the Asgard I'll ask Thor to run a full medical check on you and do what he can to help."
Wide red eyes, tears still sliding down pale cheeks, bored into his, full of growing hope "You will?"
Wordlessly he nodded and in return she again burried her head into his shoulder, squeezing him tightly in thanks.
As soon as they got home Jack went into their bedroom and, making sure the room was bug-and-hidden-camera-free, reached into the secret compartment he'd built in the corner, under a closet.
Out he pulled a round object, the shape and size of a goose egg. Feeling around for a few seconds he depressed the invisible button and put the egg back inside.
Sitting on his bed he waited.
10 minutes later he was still waiting and getting bored.
5 minutes later he gave up and went to find his wife.
He found Jennifer, zonked out on the living room couch, having fallen asleep watching Six days seven nights, of all things. Rolling his eyes, he observed that by now she could probably empathize with Robin, what with herself being involved with a much older guy, who was to top it off something of a grouch himself.
But, Jack brightened, he was still younger than Harrison was in that movie and not all of his hair was white yet. Which made him grin at realizing Harrison's and Anne's characters had an even bigger age gap than he and Jen did.
Perhaps that movie didn't suck so completely after all...
His eyes softened as they came to rest on his young wife and a gentle smile curved his lips.
Every man has something that's the most important thing in the world to them, a kingdom of sorts. For Jack it was Jen and their baby... er... babies.
His eyes changed direction from Jen's mid-section, where his thoughts of their children had taken them, to her face, to see her smiling in her sleep.
As on so many quiet, solitairy moments before, he was yet again faced with how exquisitively beautiful Jen was and how innocent she looked in sleep, even younger than her true age.
He felt like such a perv for not only getting drunk, having sex with her and knocking her up, but to actually stand there, wide awake and fully sober, enjoying watching her, appreciating her young physical beauty, while a steady warmth in her image was thawing his frozen heart. He was all too aware of the many hours he'd spent in the last few weeks watching her as she slept.
Stepping closer he went to his knees with no problem nor pain, thankful to that sadistic snake for at least one thing, and placed a large hand on her warm belly, where her tank top had ridden up to reveal the obvious concave where it had been only flat-land just months before. He'd thought it strange the first moment he'd felt her belly while propping her up over the toilet, the day he'd proposed to her, that she was showing so much already and now he had his answer.
Jen sensed his touch on her abdomen and smiled in her sleep, moving closer to his body. Her lips moved and he could barely hear her sigh his name "Jack."
For once he let his heart guide him with no input from his head and he leaned down, changing direction in the last second and pressing a kiss to her blemish-free forehead, a kiss filled with more emotion than even any kiss on the lips he'd exchanged with any woman had ever had. He'd barely stopped himself from kissing her dry, warm lips, that he imagined must be as soft as feather pillows, but he wanted the first kiss they'd share without playing up for somebody to be with her awake, aware and participating.
Maybe he was getting soft in his old age, but right now, running gentle fingers down the soft skin of her cheek, he was yet again reminded that not only was she his last chance at happiness, but he also didn't mind that. Well, not anymore.
They say parenthood makes many a person grow up and mature. It held true for Jennifer. Ever since she'd gotten pregnant she'd grown, incrementaly losing that infuriating superiority complex and becoming more down to Earth, even accepting others' input.
Making a decision he carefully pushed his arms under her and then rose to his feet in one smooth move. She weighed nothing to him and as lively as a young man he carried his young, beautiful, pregnant bride through the house and into the bedroom to insure she'd sleep well.
Their first few nights in the same bed had been awkward, but since they'd silently decided there was no pressure for them to have sex, they'd quickly settled into a routine. They knew that if they wanted to convince others, especially their friends and people who's job it was to snoop after other people, that they'd been married for over three years, they'd have to share the same bed. If they wouldn't and someone found out they weren't even sharing a bed, even though Jen was pregnant and they were supposedly happily married, it would meant nothing but trouble. Not just that, they also had to get used to being in close proximity to each other, in each other's personal space, to casual touches,...
There are so many things people adjust automatically upon becoming a couple, unconsciously and without even having a clue what they are and how many of these nuances there is, but they become increasingly apparent for two people who try to pretend being a couple and be as convincing as possible.
Depositing her on the bed gently he pulled the covers from beneath her. Efficiently he disposed of her clothes, leaving her laying there in just her bra and panties. Unsnapping the lacy garment he then folded it and placed it onto of her tank top and shorts where they were laying, folded as well, on a chair near the bed. He couldn't resist a short appreciative look at her chest, but his attention was immediately drawn to the bulge beneath. Rubbing his hand over the bulging hardness of a full womb he shook his head, still in disbelief that there were really three children growing inside there. Their three children.
Retrieving a clean shirt of his from the drawer he gently got Jen into it and then under the covers, leaving her panties on. That was one boundary he wasn't about to cross.
Yet. Not until she was fully aware and wanted it.
Going into the bathroom he quickly showered, brushed his teeth and changed into clean underwear, then entered the bedroom again. Into bed he climbed cautiously, unwilling to wake the woman who obviously needed her rest.
He had just settled in when she sensed his body heat and subconsciously turned in her sleep towards him. Before he truly realized what was happening Jennifer was already draping herself over him, one hand at the opposite side of his waist anchoring her to him. A smooth, shapely leg was bent at an angle and slipped between his, almost touching his manhood, and sending his arousal from sleeping to alert. His chest then became a pillow for a small head that first nuzzled her cheek against his pecs, then let out a content sigh and went into deep sleep again.
Leaving Jack frozen in shock, eyes wide and staring blindly into the inky darkness of the room.
' Wow ' he thought when he could finally break out of his stupor enough to get his brain in gear again ' This is new... She's never done this before. '
Indeed she hadn't. The last 3 weeks of their cohabitation had been spent on the different sides of the bed as if there had been a wall between them. Might as well been the Great Wall.
But now... something had obviously changed and Jack could only guess the change had been set in motion by the news of the Trips (as he called them now) and the connection they'd established upon pledging to do anything for their children to survive and thrive.
Hesitantly, his arm settled around slim female shoulders, prompting Jen to cuddle even deeper into him, murmuring something in her slumber.
' Well...' Jack mused ' This is a surprise...' looking down at the precious woman in his arms he concluded, by now enjoying holding a sleeping woman in his arms, a rarity for him these last few years ' Not one I mind though.'
It hadn't taken him long to fall back into the role of a husband and father, something he'd always relished, together with growing feelings for the woman in his life. Maybe those feelings came automatically with him for the woman he was married to, or maybe it was because he was really falling in love with Jen. Whatever they were, they were getting stronger by the day.
And whatever they were, they were also the reason why Jack fell asleep with a genuine happy smile for the first time in years.
"Push, Jen, push!" Jack yelled, supporting her from behind, as she keened in agony.
The doctor looked up from between her legs, but Jen definitely didn't have the time nor the energy to bother with how embarrassing it was to have a room full of strangers looking at her privates "Come on, Mrs O'Neill, the head is out, just a couple more pushes. You can do it!"
Then it was over and completely exhausted she slumped back against her husband as the last of the triplets left her body, entering the world with a lusty cry. Seeing Jack looking down at her with awe and love she decided that maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't tear his precious part off. Maybe she would even let him come near her with it... in a couple of years.
Her happy musings were rudely interrupted when her body was suddenly caught in a painful spasm again and she felt another small body enter the passage that should've rightfully been too tight for such a task.
"What the hell?!" Jack grunted as Jen's fingers again sank into his forearm, glaring at the doctor accusingly "You said there were only three in there!"
The doctor shrugged and quickly made himself busy to stop being the target of Jack's wraith.
A couple of hours later Jack looked from one crib to the next, lost. They were all lined up next to Jennifer's bed and there were so many of them they occupied the same amount of space as a regular hospital bed.
For the first time in his adult life Jack didn't know what the hell to do, how to proceed. He hadn't been prepared for this occasion and it definitely had never occured to him. Frankly put, his and Jen's new situation scared the crap out of him.
How would they manage to handle 8 kids at the same time? They would be constantly on the go, when they'd finish feeding the last one the first one would be hungry and soiled again, it would be a never-ending circle, they'd never get any sleep, they'd lose their jobs because they wouldn't be able to perform due to lack of sleep,...
"This is a miracle!" cried out the nurse goofily as she came in to check on the kids, until Jack shot her a dirty look which shut her up quite effectively.
No, this was no miracle, not in Jack's opinion. A miracle is a good thing, this... 8 kids ain't a good.
To start with, they must've seriously messed up Jen's body, depleted it of it's resources, it would take a long time for her to recover, but even through his worry about Jen he was aware of an even more present danger. Jen was small and there was no way all eight were developed fully and strong enough to survive. He'd heard of super-multiples, as they are called, and he knew most of them died within a few day.
And, if they did all survive, how would he and Jen afford to feed them, clothe them, provide for their needs? And they'd all hit 16 at the same time and want a car each...
Then there was College... And weddings and birthdays... How would he and Jen afford it?
If diapers and formula, since there was no realistic way for Jen to have enough milk for all eight, didn't bankrupt them before then...
8 kids weren't so unusual 80 years ago (except for 8 at the same time - these were always rare and most of the time none of them survived), but life was cheaper back then and people, children, were more humble and got through life with less than now. Now if you don't buy your kid for Christmas the current "coolest" and "must have" toy then the media and society subtly make you out to be a bad person, setting up your child for social, emotional and psychological problems. If you don't buy them the current must-have toy, that's usually way overpriced, then you're rising the next serial killer or school shooter.
As if that wasn't bad enough he also had to pee. Really urgently. Pressing his thighs together didn't work. Frustrated, Jack ran a hand over his face.
When he opened his eyes again he was startled to find himself back in his bed.
Looking around blearily he confirmed he really was back in his house. It was night, obvious from the darkness in the room even with the shades open, and his wife was sleeping soundly by his side.
Jack sighed, throwing his head back down onto the pillow.
Everything had been just a dream. Just a nightmare. Thank god.
There were no 8 cribs lined up next to the bed and Jen was still pregnant, with just triplets and not octuplets. If one could say three kids were 'just' three kids.
Jack couldn't help himself but repeat his earlier thought of relief ' Thank god.'
But his bladder wouldn't let up and eventually he had to leave the warm nest of his and Jen's bed to answer the call of nature.
Eyes closing, Jack leaned against the bathroom's wall, pulled down his boxers and went about doing his business.
Too sleepy to keep his lids open he never saw the light that flashed for a brief moment in the room.
Which was why he jerked in surprise just as he was putting himself back in his boxers and the loud voice VERY close behind suddenly spoke up.
' Thanking god I'm only wearing boxers, otherwise I would be singing soprano now.' Jack thought, taking a few seconds to calm his speeding heart.
"Thor, buddy." Jack had a forced smile on when he turned around to face his visitor, heart still racing. Thor just continued gazing up at him, not an emotion showing, as he replied in a monotone voice, stating, not asking.
"You called, O'Neill."
Christ, here he was, practically trying to explain the birds and the bees and educated aliens to an Asgard who knows how many thousands of years older...
And that in the toilet...
To make matters even more ridiculous, Thor was saying nothing. The big, black eyes just stared unblinkingly up at Jack as he rambled his explanation and it was impossible for Jack to read the little alien's thoughts. For all Jack knew, for all those huge dark eyes revealed, Thor could either be plotting the destruction of the Goa'uld or the nearest path to his own toilet.
How did the Asgard solve these biological matters, anyway? As far as he could remember Jack hadn't seen appropriate facilities on any of their ships...
"It would be no hinderance, O'Neill and may I, in the name of the entire Asgard race, express our joy at hearing you have decided to propagate and bind your life to another. We have long been despairing you would be lost to the passings of time."
For some strange reason Jack had the urge to blush, draw a line in the bathroom carpet with his toes and say 'Aw, shucks, it was nuthin'.'
He settled for "Ah, thanks." together with a throat-clearing, though. He thought ' It was my pleasure.' would've been over the top and a little tasteless.
"Ah, well, I guess then we better go wake Jen and get ready." he at last decided, waving with his hand in the air, after he and Thor had been looking at each other wordlessly for about 20 seconds.
Thor inclined his head and followed Jack out of the room. Jack knew it was done out of respect for him because Thor could've easily beamed them all onto his ship instead of waiting for the two humans to get ready.
Entering the bedroom Jack's breath caught in his throat and he paused in the doorway. He still hadn't gotten used to the sight of a woman in his bed again, it surprised him every time, but it was more than that. Jen was beautiful, there was no doubt about it; asleep, her face peaceful and a small smile on her face, she was even more so. She radiated her youth and vitality and for some strange reason Jack himself felt younger than he was.
But it was more than just that with Jen. The sight of her roused primeval feelings inside of him, she woke up the possessiveness and territoriality he hadn't felt in a long, long time. This was his and he would kill anyone who'd try to take Jen and their children from him, nor would he allow himself to screw it up, no matter what the reason nor what he needed to do to make it work. For the first time since this marriage had been conceived (he snorted privately at the unintended, but oh-so-truthful pun) he was able to admit to himself that this was no longer a mere marriage of convenience to him, to save their faces or to provide their children with a home and family, this was a real marriage for him now, with everything that goes with it.
Bridging the distance between himself and the woman he now called his wife, who'd been only a subordinate 6 months ago, almost as if in a trance he gently shook her shoulder and called her name softly "Jen. Jen, wake up!"
It took him a few tries before a low groan could be heard and the woman tried to sleepily shake him off.
"Just five more minutes, Honey." Jen murmured, snuggling deeper into her pillow and tugging the sheet up to her neck. With a happy noise that sounded almost like a purr she settled to get back to sleep.
Shaking his head, he gave a low chuckle, suppressing the thought that he too would've been rather in the bed right now, snuggling with her, than about to be transported onto an alien ship, high above Earth.
"Well, I would gladly give you five more minutes, but I don't think the big bad alien in the room with us would be happy about it." Jack grinned, glancing back at the small, frail Asgard who was frowning at him unhappily.
"That's nice." Jen murmured sleepily, almost back asleep again. Suddenly her eyes shot open and she bolted upright in the bed, looking around wildly "ALIEN!? What alien!?"
Jack moved away to reveal the sight of an Asgard standing in the middle of their bedroom, looking as every-day as a bear in a china shop. A polar bear. A polar bear with a Santa's hat on it's head...
And then the polar bear was moving forward, small, gray hand extended, closing distance with her. Unconsciously, Jen moved closer to Jack for safety even though rationally she knew the Asgard wouldn't hurt her. Thor ignored the gesture, knowing his appearance had startled her.
"Greetings, Lieutenant Jennifer O'Neill! Please, allow me to extend my felicitations upon your union and the impending birth of your progeny."
Clutching the bed-sheets to her body, Jen blushed, fully aware of her state of undress and the way she looked having just awakened, her hair messy.
What a way to meet the most powerful alien in the universe for the first time...
Hearing Jack snicker next to her she sent him a fierce glare that did nothing but send him into a laughing fit.
"Uh," she started, feverishly trying to form a dignified response "Thank you, Supreme Commander Thor."
Seeing it was better he jumped in lest he would be spending the rest of eternity on the couch, Jack suppressed his amusement "Thor, buddy, give us a couple of minutes to get dressed, will 'ya?"
Thor inclined his head regally "As you wish, O'Neill."
With that he blinked out of existence and Jen turned awed eyes on her husband. She'd known that Jack was friends with Thor, something that had awed her the first second she'd heard of it, but to know Thor treated Jack with such obvious respect was something completely new. To know that the most powerful being in the universe respected Jack so much raised her own respect in return.
"Okay, we've got five minutes to get ready." Jack announced, throwing her the things she wore for the store or somewhere else, casual and civilian. The new-found respect for him didn't stop her from being mad at him for that, though.
Quickly returning to the bed he extended a hand to help her up, which Jen accepted, although not without a glare. Her body had changed a lot in a short amount of time and she was still unaccustomed to having her womb replaced by a small ball that prevented bending at the waist, nor was she used to her constantly shifting center of gravity yet. This making her consequently clumsy and cumbersome. Jen didn't have the advantage of height and weight to compensate for the sudden change in center of gravity and the increase in weight, that was mostly going into her midsection, her lower stature made her even more sensitive to these changes. She was loath to admit it, but it was true that she needed Jack's help and, not only emotional, but also physical support at times, otherwise she would've probably overbalanced, fallen to the floor and hurt their children.
While she was getting dressed Jack did that as well and for a second Jen had to shake her head at how life can change.
People who were on a personal level complete strangers before can become more essential to you than breathing and you can't imagine your life without them in the space of just a few months. Or carrying babies of a man who was only your CO mere weeks ago, not even a lover. Getting dressed with General O'Neill less than one meter away, while he's getting dressed too, had been incomprehensible to Jen as much as 4 months ago. But now... now it didn't feel anything but normal to drop her pants or skirt, lift her blouse and unsnap her bra while he was in the same room... something of which the mere idea would've freaked her out once. Nor could she have imagined them brushing their teeth together, at the same sink, from the same tooth-paste tube and exchanging turns at the water to rinse out as they were doing now.
He was her husband now and things had changed monumentally.
Beaming on-board The O'Neill II, they found themselves being greeted by two Asgard, while the rest milled about, tending to their duties. The other Asgard was introduced as Heimdall and immediately ushered Jen off to have her scanned and evaluated.
Somewhat overwhelmed, Jen followed, sending a questioning look at Jack. After Jack nodded reassuringly in return Jen's shoulders finally relaxed and she allowed herself to be scanned.
The scan was done within minutes and Heimdall presented Jen and Jack a solution: a microscopic chip would be implanted into Jen's arm to monitor her condition and prevent any sudden and critical rise in blood pressure, release of hormones that could harm the fetuses or even cause a premature labor, etc.. After Jack got reassurance from Thor that those were the chip's only purposes, that it couldn't be used for anything else, that the chip couldn't be hacked to gain control over Jen or her body; did Jen and Jack concede to the chip being implanted.
The General and the small alien stepped back as Jen laid down into a medical pod for a full examination and the testing and programming of the chip. They stood side by side in silence until the Asgard Supreme Commander spoke, the thoughtful tone echoing in his metallic voice.
"I must confess, O'Neill, I was somewhat surprised you have chosen a mate. The Asgard have started to believe, and fear, you would be remiss in passing on your superior genetic material. The Council will be most pleased to hear the news. I am also personally pleased over your choice, such a young mate can give you many strong offspring. Most of all I am..." Thor struggled to find the word for a second "happy for your happiness, which is indeed evident from the amount of endorphines in your system."
"You know, Thor." Jack mused loudly, staying away from Thor's talk about hormones and even more kids "I actually believed for a long time that if I had kids, you'd want me to have them with Carter."
Thor nodded in understanding, he himself had noticed long ago Jack's feelings had been more than just professional. Yet, Thor had also known about the frat regs that had been one of the roadblocks, the other being Carter herself "While Lt Col Carter is an excellent specimen, indeed, she is too advanced in her life cycle to be an optimal candidate."
' Say what? '
"You're saying..." Jack was struggling with the news "that Carter's too OLD to be a good choice?"
"Indeed." Thor intoned solemnly
' Has Thor been taking lessons from Teal'c? ' if the next thing he did was to raise an eyebrow Jack would be running out the door, screaming in fright.
Thankfully the gray brow not even twitched, but Thor still continued "Lt Col Carter has long since passed her most fertile period and as her body has been compromised too much in the line of duty over the last few cycles she would be a poor choice as a procreation partner. It is impossible to say without proper tests, but there is a strong chance LtCol Carter is incapable of reproducing at all."
"Huh." Jack grunted, at a loss for words.
"Indeed, Jennifer O'Neill, is the optimal candidate. She is intelligent, from what I understand she is by human standards physically attractive and is also early enough in her life cycle she will be able to produce even more offspring. As she is young, healthy and strong, she is also able to provide strong and healthy offspring."
"And I think that's all I need to hear." Jack finally interrupted, really not wanting to get into how Jen could have many more offspring. He'd always had the feeling Thor wanted him to have more kids to pass on his genes, but this enthusiasm was a little creepy. Besides, three kids are more than enough, if anyone asked him or Jen.
When there was a heavy silence, Jack was afraid he'd offended his little buddy and was getting ready to apologize, when he saw Thor looking up at him with an intense look in his large black eyes.
"May I ask a favor of you and Lt O'Neill, O'Neill?"
"Just call her Jennifer, Thor." Jack proposed "It's quicker and easier." he'd long since given up on trying to get Teal'c and Thor to call him by his given name so he didn't even try it again now "And, yeah, how can we help you, buddy?" With the way that previous conversation was going Jack sincerely hoped Thor wouldn't ask him to either donate a kid for experimentation or simply have more than just these three with kids. Or, even worse, become some breeding stud to spread his genes across Earth. Besides, he was sure Jen would appreciate not one uf such requests and having his wife pissed off at him was not on Jack's agenda for the year.
"After your young-ones are born can we, the Asgard, ask for a sample of the child's DNA? We have strong reasons to believe it would greatly help us reverse the damage done to your genetic structure by our cloning procedure."
Jack's eyes narrowed thoughtfully "DNA? What kind of a sample would you need?"
"Only a hair or a saliva sample." Thor assured.
Jack didn't have to think about it and he knew Jen would agree with his decision. The Asgard had helped them, and him personally, so much that such a sample would be no problem "You've got a deal, buddy."
"Then in the name of the asgard race I give you and Jennifer my thanks, O'Neill."
"Oh, no problem, buddy, you know I like to help you guys. You're my best buddy. And all the times you saved Earth and taken us under your protection, we owe you... Oh, a couple of million times over."
Watching Jen being tended to, a yearning rose in Jack. He loved his kids already, even though they weren't born yet, and if he was truthful to himself he'd come to love Jen as well. He couldn't imagine his life without any of them anymore.
"Thor, buddy?" Heimdall watched as the Supreme Commander and his Tau'ri friend walked out of the medical wing "I have another favor to ask..."
Jen was leaning on the door jamb, a hot cup of tea in her hands, watching as Jack shaved on one beautiful Saturday morning.
The man himself wasn't oblivious to his wife's scrutiny and as a consequence Jack couldn't concentrate on what he was doing, too conscious of Jen's intense, unblinking stare directed at him.
After he had nicked himself for the second time in 10 seconds he stopped, deciding he'd better find out what was going on before he somehow managed to slit his throat even with these new razors that were made to prevent such an event from occuring. Turning his head to his wife he raised an eyebrow in a silent question. It took but a second for Jen to decide to go through with the question.
"Can I do that for you?"
Jack's forehead furrowed in confusion "Do what?"
"Shave you." she replied calmly, already putting her cup on a counter and moving to his side.
"Uh." Jack stammered, not having expected this answer and feverishly trying to read her mind as he ran through all the scenarios for her reasons and conseqences of both, allowing her and rejecting her plea.
But Jen was already by his side, her white silk robe gaping open, the upper gap revealing a tantalizing expanse of young, firm, supple flesh of her luscious breasts of which Jack still had some very nice memories from the morning-after. His eyes were immediately drawn to the cleavage, his hands itching to be run over that young skin and internally he recognized he was a very lucky man indeed, to have such a young lovely wife, who was definitely not hard to look at. His gaze then slipped lower, body heating up, pulse accelerating, palms beginning to sweat. She had tied her robe's belt beneath her breasts, allowing her naked belly to part the folds of the soft material and stand out like a hill, the skin, tightly stretched over her full womb with no fat to soft it up - compliment of her healthy diet and exercise designed for pregnant women, shining in the bright morning light. Her voice was like a caress as she continued talking, captivated by the sight of him, shirtless and with foam spread over his face, his muscles bulging with his arms bent over at the elbow "I was fascinated with my father shaving when I was little, but he never let me help, wasn't about to put a straight razor into a little kid's hands and then let me near his throat."
"Smart man." commented Jack and Jen cooed softly in agreement, even as she claimed the razor from his unresisting fingers, while he was feverishly trying to remember whether he had pissed her off in the last few days, if he should be worried about letting her near his throat with a razor. Backing up against a nearby counter she glanced behind herself and noticed it's height. It was way too high for her to simply jump up while standing with her back against it, she could've possibly done it months ago, but no way would she be able to do it pregnant. Realizing her predicament Jack wordlessly bent down and picked her up, depositing her on the flat surface. She would've eventually found a way to get herself up there, but this way was much quicker and definitely easier, for them both. He knew Jen was a little touchy about her height, which to him was perfect, so there was no need to bring unnecessary attention to it. The woman would be using a razor near his neck, after all... Motioning with her finger in the come-hither way that made his body respond involuntarily in a way he cursed it for she waited until he was close enough and loosely threw her ankles around the backs of his calfs to hold him in place. Jack was clinging to every shred of his self-control to keep his aroused anatomy away from her own groin, lest he make an already-strange situation into an even more awkward one.
Her strokes were gentle and careful, if a little awkward, her inexperience with the terrain and the angle itself, showing through. It was obvious she had never done this before as she was quite apparently having problems with shaving someone else who was not she, since for such a feat different ways to grip the razor and twist your wrist are required. For some reason a warm feeling of pride and possession settled in Jack's heart at the knowledge he had always been fated to be the only man she would ever do this for. He couldn't stop his eyes from slipping closed as she took away the stubble, while her other tiny hand was placed on his chest to keep her steady, her heat radiating into him, his body in the cradle of her slim thighs, baby mound pressing into his stomach, and warm, moist breath whispering against his face. As if with a mind of their own his hands set down high on her naked thighs. Heat flared away from the point of contant instantly into both of them, each too into their own cascade of feelings deriving from such a simple touch to notice the other's identical reaction. Jen had to stop for a moment to take a deep breath and calm her speeding heart before she trusted herself to continue her mission.
When she was at last done Jack used his long arms to reach to his side and pour warm water over a towel, which he then gave her and Jen used it to clean his face of all shaving foam residues. Barely resisting an urge that came out of nowhere to test the thoroughness of her job with her lips her eyes roamed his features, for the first time when he was awake taking the opportunity to gaze without shame or embarrassement. Her chocolate orbs scanned his dear features carefully, her impressive intellect storing them for eternity. Using the pretense of checking for any stubble that had escaped her vigilance, Jen allowed her hands to run over his now soft cheeks, enjoying the feel of his skin beneath her fingertips.
Jack, starved for affection, not having received any in almost 7 years, reveled in her attentions, allowing himself to soak it up like a sponge and quietly enjoy the experience, for with his line of work even Sara, with their long marriage, had not had many opportunities for this. Jen, on the other hand, was feeling the wonder of a first-timer, her mind almost coming to a halt at the realization she was finally touching a man in such a way. Her mind then did come to a halt when she remembered this man was her husband and her heart flared brightly at this discovery. Her small unconscious smile widened when she then figured out she had all the right to touch him like that whenever she wanted, well with reason of course, for years in the future.
Her silent wonderment got quite a bit of a shock then suddenly.
"Jack, is it just my imagination or is your silver hair changing color?"
Jack's eyebrow shot up at the question. She could notice if he had less gray hair? She had had to check it out quite thoroughly to know what went there and what not.
With a light touch she ran her hand over his hair which was indeed losing it's steel-gray shade. And then, eyes wide in wonder, she ran her gaze over his face, her gentle fingers following, brushing against every feature as she spoke "And I thought I was just imagining before, but the lines on your forehead are disappearing..." she touched his forehead with gentle tips of her finger, the tender sensation making Jack's eyes close again "...your laugh lines are almost gone..." the corresponding touch made his lips tingle "...your skin is smoother, suppler and softer. Younger almost..."
Her eyes widened in fear in a sudden realization and she tried to scoot back on the counter, but the wall stopped her "Jack? What's going on?" she whispered, her voice trembling from a maelstrom of emotions "Are you even Jack?" her hands moved unconsciously to her growing belly in a protective gesture. Jack... or who pretended to be her husband, was standing between her open thighs, leaving her vulnerable. In such a position and with the bulge in the way she wouldn't be able to defend herself or her babies if this... person... tried to kill her for having blown it's cover. Was it even a person or was it an alien? With their line of work it wouldn't be impossible for an alien to have taken on Jack's looks to infiltrate the SGC. Something similar had been tried before, after all...
"It's me, Jen." he nodded, knowing what was coming and relieved he could finally tell her, because he didn't like seeing fear in her dark eyes. Things like her being afraid or hurting or just being sad wounded him more than he could have ever imagined she would affect him. How far he had come from that snarky, but ultimately terribly lonely Colonel who'd seen only a potential recruit in the lovely young woman standing before him for the first time on that planet, just a recruit, not even a woman. How he had changed in the space of mere months... A change and the cause for this change, both thing he was thankful for every single moment of his life "I'm still your Jack, the one you woke up with after Carter's engagement party, who fathered these children in you the night of the party, the one who got Bill to back-date the marriage license,..."
"Then what..." she stopped, hand on her mouth, tears filling her eyes in fear of not knowing what was happening. Was something wrong with him? Was he dying? "What's going on?"
"Remember when Thor came 'round for a visit last week?" he still hadn't told her of the Asgard communicator in his possession, having quite simply forgotten.
"Yesss?" she prodded him to say more, reflexively touching the spot where the microchip was implanted and he took that as an answer even before she nodded "While you were having the tests on the implant done I asked him for another favor."
He could see he had her full attention now "I'm sorry I didn't talk to you about it before I asked, but it was a spur-of-the-moment idea and I honestly didn't think you'd be against it."
"What did you do, Jack?" she asked with dread and it still astounded her just how easy it was for her to call him Jack now, 6 months ago she would never have thought of doing that.
"I asked him to do an overhaul on my body." Jack finally admitted heavily "While you were being monitored by Heimdall and sleeping in the med-pod Thor replaced my organs with new ones, cleaned out my veins and did something that rejuvinated my body. A side effect is that my hair is going back to the way it was, my skin is getting younger and so on. Thor basically made my body 25 years old again." Jen was mute with shock, the corners of her dark eyes filling with tears, prompting Jack to continue his confession "I'm so much older than you..." he shook his head when she tried to protest "We both know it's true, Jen. I'm 20 years your senior and whether we admit it or not, I would've died a lot sooner than you and left you and the rugrats behind."
"You're not the only one with the early death risk, Jack." Jen denied "Yes, you're older, but you've got a safer job now, while on the other hand I'm on a first-contact team and can be killed on any given mission."
Her words proved something to him he hadn't wanted to face before. Privately he'd hoped she'd want to step back and take a safer job after the babies had been born, but her words proved she had nothing like that in mind. He couldn't help but feel disappointed and a little resentful she still placed her career before her family, before her own children. He had hoped that now that she was a mother she would change her priorities and reconsider her membership in a command as dangerous as the SGC, it was bad enough that one of them was exposed to it's inherent dangers.
Not because of some perceived chauvinism or belief that women didn't belong into the military, but because of the millenia-old instinct in the males of the species to protect the females of the pack and the young, an instinct in every male that demands of him to avoid any situation that would put his female in danger.
Jack had sincerely, secretly hoped Jen would be willing to consider a safer assignment after the children had been born, because with the way the world was that was the only danger he was able to protect her from. Well, beside getting her a safer car instead of that little toy she drove. Not only he didn't want his children to grow up without their mother, but he didn't want to lose her himself.
She had a lot of options what she could do instead of being on an SG team: she could go after her Master's and then Doctorate (and Jack had already made inquiries if the USAF would be willing to sponsor her studies to make it even easier for her - their reply when hearing it was for Jennifer Hailey, the young prodigy, was 'hell yes!'), after which she could teach, or she could take apart the alien technology SG teams would bring off-world and that had been proven not dangerous. Jack was frankly fed up with having to listen to Carter and the rest of the eggheads moan and bitch how everything got sent over to Area 51 because they didn't have enough time to test it and he had thus been seriously thinking of setting up a research division, physically separate from the SGC, perhaps somewhere still on the mountain, near the Cheyenne complex, but not inside it, with a daycare nearby, so no matter if there was another foothold situation the research team wouldn't be locked inside the mountain as well. If something happened to him during such a situation then their children would at least still have their mother. And if they had to evacuate through the Stargate then at least she and the kids were close-by.
It was official, he loved her, was in love with her and couldn't imagine his life without her, no matter how corny that sounded. What he'd said about Carter all those years ago when being tested for a Za'tarc held now for Jen, but more than it had ever held for his former 2IC. Yes, Jack O'Neill had done the unimaginable and gone and fallen for his 21 years younger wife, whom he had married only because he'd knocked her up the night of his former flame's engagement party.
Ignoring Jen's words, deciding he'd presented her his ideas later, Jack tried to explain his decision "I'm older and I would've probably died in the next 20 years. 30 if I was really lucky. And I don't want my children to have to grow up without their father and I didn't want to leave you behind. According to Thor my body will de-age for the next month and while I won't completely look like a 25 year old, but a REALLY well-preserved 47 year old, my body will be that age and state of health nonetheless."
Jen's eyes grew wide with his revelation, her heart overflowing first with shock, then with ever-stronger waves of love, as a tear broke off and slowly rolled down her cheek. But as soon as the first shock wore off she impulsively threw her legs back behind his thighs, locked her ankles together to hold him in place, slid her arms behind his neck and kissed him so deeply and passionately his toes curled in his slippers.
When she finally let his lips go her arms and legs still stayed around him, even with the position being awkward because of her extended belly.
"You really did that for me?" she whispered thickly, guiding his hand down to her belly, as more tears broke through "For us?"
He still looked slightly bewildered by this sudden turn of events, but, as she had destroyed his fears of a rejection from her with her assault, he was ridiculously happy with how everything had turned out. Even though they were married he had still been terrified she'd reject him because of his age, his scars or anything else, had he tried to make the firs step.
As he was catching his breath to answer her question his hand, captive in Jen's small one, began rubbing her distended belly, while his other slipped around her body to keep her close.
The feel of his strong fingers digging into the flesh of her butt, that had always been extremely sensitive, was causing her pulse to sky-rocket and by now she had a pretty good idea how this night was going to end. Not only she didn't mind it not one bit, she was in fact eagerly looking forward to years of doing that together and decades of sharing their lives as only married couples in love can.
"Well, I didn't do it just for you all." he retorted, feeling the need to snark a little "Yeah, okay, so I mostly did, but I also did it for myself." in a rare moment of emotional functionality and openness Jack continued "This is my second chance, Jen, the chance I never thought I'd have again after Charlie. I want this, I want this with you, and I want it for at least the next 50 years. Hell, I was even thinking we would both have this done every 10 or 20 years... we could have forever together."
He must've said something right because the next second she had her mouth slanted over his and was pushing her small tongue inside to tangle with his own.
Things were heating up fast and Jack knew they were only seconds away from Jennifer freeing him and taking him inside herself right on that counter.
And for their first time... Okay, their first coherent time and the first time they'd remember the act, not being intoxicated; Jack wanted a more special and private place than the bathroom commode. Jen definitely deserved better. So did he for that matter.
Jen drew her short legs higher so they were locked behind his waist as Jack guided his other hand to the remaining butt-cheek to lift her from the counter. With his precious cargo secure he straightened his legs to lift her off the counter and turned to carry her away, this made harder by her baby mound being in the way. Deep into her passion Jen continued to nibble and lick on his neck as he made his way to the bedroom.
Once there he carefully put her on the ground and they started clawing at each other's clothes.
In no time at all they were both naked and Jen was lying on her back on his bed while he used his pillow to prop her hip high enough so they could make love without putting pressure on her sensitive belly.
"Have I already told you how beautiful you are, so full with our children?" he murmured sensually and Jen felt warmth grow in her heart as she shook her head in denial of his assesment.
"No, I'm not." she denied self-consciously, trying to find something to cover herself up, to hide her changed body from his view, but Jack's gentle hands stopped her.
"Yes, you are beautiful." Jack disagreed as he ran tender hands over her aching breasts down to her belly "For some reason you can't see it, but you're the most beautiful woman in the world. You've always been beautiful. You caught my eye when we first met, but you were still just a Cadet and so young and I was sure you wouldn't be interested in such an old man. Now 4 years later you're even more stunning to me. And this..." he emphasized as his large hands cupped her baby mound on both sides "... makes you even more gorgeous. These are our babies you're carrying inside you, our DNA, our flesh and blood, our immortality, and you are nurturing them in your own body as they're growing bigger by the day, until they're ready to come out. You're gorgeous and I, god help me, have fallen in love with you."
Before she could react to his declaration he pressed into her extremely tight and except-for-him-untried passage, his big hands sensually roaming over her belly and swollen breasts with their hard peaks, their eyes locked in an unbreakable hold. Jack felt right, as if he was exactly where he belonged, where he'd always been meant to be, something he hadn't felt with either Sara nor Carter, it was a feeling he was feeling for the first time in his life. In her eyes, clouded in passion, arousal, need, desire and... dare he say it... love, he saw all of his feelings returned and his heart overflowed with love.
Meanwhile Jen was drowning in bliss and with the small part of her brain still functioning she asked herself how could she have been so afraid of this, of making love to Jack. Her fears of her inexperience showing had been empty, the moment Jack had joined them something primordial took her over and she reacted to his every move and action instinctively and naturally. Jack's declaration of love, the one thing she'd been craving to hear for 4 years ever since she had developed a crush and hero-worshipping for him, and what he was doing to her body, trying to make her experience the biggest explosion of her life, all worked together to have her reaching the point of no return with the speed of a ha'tak at it's fastest.
"Yes... Jen... let go... come on..." Jack grunted and increased his pace until they were both crying out in simultaneous completion, their universes dissolving and puting back together, this time as one.
"I love you too... " Jen managed to gasp as she clutched at his body in preparation for the finish. As pleasure and feelings took her over Jen screamed his name into the morning air "JAAAAACKKK!"
When they regained enough strength Jen turned on her side and Jack pressed himself against her back. He soon became hard again, another perk of being 25 again, and slid back inside her, not with the intention of starting another love-making session as they were both too emotionally exhausted, but to attain the unity it gave them. Joined in body and spirit they soon fell asleep in the bed that would from now and until forever truly be theirs.
It was time.
Time for something Jack had been dreading ever since Jen had told him she was pregnant.
It was time to tell SG-1 he was about to become a father.
Time to make them feel betrayed when he told them he and Jen had been married for years, but he hadn't told them. Okay, so they had only been married for 3 months, but SG-1 was going to get the official version. There were reasons why they wouldn't be getting the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Daniel was too talkative and had not enough self-control, he being the biggest danger the truth would slip out. The archeologist would no doubt be hurt he hadn't been told of the marriage beforehand and would make his displeasure known.
' The man is such a child sometimes.' Jack sighed, fondness mixing with irritation when he thought of the younger man he saw as a younger brother and sometimes as an infant son whenever Daniel was in his childish moods and tantrums.
Still, no matter how intelligent Daniel was, he was the main danger of blabbing the secret out, so he would be given the official version.
Daniel wasn't the only one who would be fed the lie.
While Jack knew it would hurt Carter he was too much of a realist to make himself believe the reason for that hurt would be feelings for him, but the fact that she was being told only now, years after the fact, the same reason Daniel would feel betrayed too.
On the other hand... Jen was young... Younger than Carter... 13 years younger to be exact...
Carter was going to blow a gasket, still existing feelings for Jack or not.
No matter how well he played one, Jack was no fool and knew all too well no woman appreciated her ex/could've-been-lover finding himself a younger woman. And no matter that Carter didn't have feelings for him anymore, the problem was that as the only woman in his life for 4 years (officially and 7 years unofficially), even if she'd never been his lover, she had probably developed territorial feelings over him since she knew there was no other woman. It was especially bad when the women in question were on the wrong side of 30, stepping into their 40's, like Carter was, and thus could hear the last gasps of their biological clock as it was giving up the ghost and the new lover/wife was in her 20's.
Oh, yeah, Jack was definitely glad he was Carter's CO, cause that way he wouldn't have to explain a black eye at work or bruised testicles to a doctor, nor would he have to worry about any other form of revenge from a scorned woman. And there are few things more malicious, vicious and fear-inspiring than a scorned woman out for revenge and blood. Jack's rank and position as Carter's CO made him safe, something he was deliriously happy about.
That didn't mean the whole scene wouldn't be uncomfortable and painful, of course, but there would be no long-term consequences. Hopefully. However, no matter what the circumstances of the lie would be Jack still wasn't prepared to tell the truth. He knew the lie would hurt SG-1 on some level, but he also knew the truth would hurt Jen more. No matter what Carter had been to him once, Jen was now more important. Incomparably more important, Jen was his wife and the woman he loved and came for him before everything, he'd sacrifice everything else but never Jen and their kids.
Jack wasn't fooling himself into believing everything would be great and go back to normal, he knew it would take time, a lot of time, and things would be tense for a while before getting better. SG-1 would feel betrayed and he could still remember how wary and cold they'd been to him after the Makepiece fiasco. After all, if he and Jen had really been married for that long and he wouldn't have told them, then they would've been well justified to be pissed off at him and hurt by his deception. But what was done was done and, if he was truthful with himself, Jen and their kids were more important to him than anything else, even SG-1. If it meant he'd have to choose between his two families he already knew what his choice would be, no matter how much that would hurt. Unbidden, the lyrics of "When a man loves a woman" by Percy Sledge came back to him. True, he was putting his woman in front of his friends, but he knew Jen wouldn't turn out the way the woman in the song had, nor was he blind to Jen's faults.
Teal'c... hm... Teal'c was different from the other two. Teal'c was much more observant, insightful and astute to be fooled easily. Teal'c would be hard to sell. On the other hand, Jack knew Teal'c could keep a secret, he'd never met a person who spoke less and who so carefully thought through everything he was about to say. No, Teal'c wouldn't blow their secret, nor by mistake nor by design, and perhaps Jack would pull him to the side at some later point and explain everything.
He wondered what the Jaffa would think of Jen as Jack's mate and of the whole situation and when the lovely lady in question came looking for him he realized he'd been starting to miss her even though he'd seen her just a short while ago.
"Hey." Jack smiled at her, watching as she entered the office, belly leading the way. Jack was sorely tempted to make a quip of the belly arriving half an hour before the rest, but held off. Angry pregnant woman wasn't something he wanted to deal with.
Looking at the empty desk curiously Jen inquired "What are you doing?"
Jack sighed heavily "Thinking. About... stuff."
Jen nodded, having learned by now you had to give Jack time with important issues.
It therefore surprised her when Jack needed only a few seconds to make up his mind.
"I need to talk to you about something." his serious expression worried her "C'mere."
Without hesitation Jen followed his request and came around his office chair, taking his hand. Jack took her small hand in his, then grabbed her around her waist. Gently he guided her backwards until she hit his legs, then encouraged her to sit on his lap. Once she was in place Jack left his arm around her back to secure her there and gently caressed her bump with his other hand. Slowly she relaxed, but he could still guess she wasn't used to such familiar touches or simple manifests of affection. Placing a tender kiss on her lips he was inadvertently swept away with passion once again.
She smelled so nice, some fruity thing he couldn't even begin to identify and the scent that was just her, felt so right in his arms and those thick all-natural lips of hers... God, her lips were the stuff wet dreams are made of, thick, easily comparable to Monica Belucci's lips, lips women pay big bucks to get yet no surgeon can create anything even close to them, and the lower one was so nibbleable, if there was such a word. It was succulent, thick and pouty and he could nibble on it the whole day and not get tired of it. These were lips made for kissing and nibbling, these lips were sensuality personified.
She had such lovely facial features, so femininely feminine, clean, clearly defined, no in-between, every part of her beautiful face was clearly by it's own and didn't melt from one into another as with some people. Her lips were, as everything else, sharply defined, it was crystal clear where they began and where they ended and had against his will attracted his appreciative gaze the first time he'd met her. Even though he'd been occupied with other matters at the time, like being responsible for not only a bunch of hapless scientists, some of whom were missing, but also for an untrained cadet, who hadn't even finished the Academy and had never been off-world, thus more liablity than any help if they were attacked by the snakeheads. Yet, even with all of that occupying him he hadn't been able to stop his eyes from straying to the kissable lips of that spunky young woman.
He felt himself quickly heating up and Jen was moaning deeply into his mouth, rubbing against his leg, when it finally sunk in how quickly were they approaching the point of no return. With a strength of will enviable by anyone on the planet he finally managed to let go of those fantastic lips and push Jen gently away, his whole body vibrating in response to her disappointed, frustrated whimper.
They had all the time in the world to make love while right now there were more important things to talk about. Looking down at her belly he took a minute to gather his words, not knowing how she would react.
"It's time SG-1 finds out about us and about these three." his hand stopped it's motion and fingers spread to encompass the large bulge as Jen stiffened in his grasp, his words having the effect of an ice cold shower.
Looking up he could see hesitation shine from Jen's expressive eyes.
"What's wrong, Jen?" he questioned softly "Don't you want us to finally come out?"
She worried her lower lip for a second, then sighed and melted into him in defeat "I'm just scared what they'll think. Of me."
Jack let out an amused grin "I think it's too late to worry about that, they've made up their mind years ago and they all respect and like you."
Jen glared at him "Yeah, but back then we weren't married yet. Now they'll think I'm a slut for sleeping with my CO or they'll think I only got accepted into the SGC because you're my husband."
"Nope, they won't." assured Jack.
"And how do you know that?" she demanded.
"Because they know you and know just how capable you are. They know you got this spot only through your own skill and intelligence. They also know me, that I don't let myself be manipulated, especially not with feminine wiles, sex and a beautiful pair of eyes." the orbs in question softened even further as she let the truth of his words sink in, a light coming into them as she caught his compliment "That goes for the rest of the SGC too and if anyone even thinks of saying anything outloud I'll just glower at them and they'll quickly change their minds."
Jen snickered, burying her face in his neck at the mental image of Jack glowering down at some recruit, cowering before the General in fear. She wasn't about to admit it to him, but he could be a very intimidating man if he wanted to. There had been times before they'd gotten married when she had been afraid of him herself, together with other personnel. The fear had been completely irrational and undeserved as Jack was far from an unfair commander and would never punish someone for something they didn't deserve, but his angry or frustrated glower had been enough to send fear into their bones.
With a gentle finger under her chin Jack brought Jen's face back up to his "It'll be alright, you'll see." he assured her and she would've been hard-pressed not to believe him.
Calmed down she laid her head back down on his chest and pressed her face against his neck. She didn't know whether she was weird or losing her mind or whether it was just chemistry or perhaps something different, something age-old and primitive, dating back to before Homo Erectus, but his unique scent never failed to calm her down and reassure her that everything would be alright, remind her she was finally belonging to someone and would never be alone again.
Whatever it was, it had erased Jen's anxiety and now she no longer looked forward to the meeting with SG-1 with fear.
"Hey, T!" Jack caught sight of the big man as the Jaffa was about to enter the commissary. Teal'c stopped and turned around.
"O'Neill." he greeted in his deep voice and bowed his head in respect.
"You goin' to get sum chow?"
"Indeed I am." responded Teal'c and moved from the door, letting a nurse pass by.
"Have anything planned for this Saturday?" Jack probed as they entered the room and found the back of the line.
"Indeed I have not."
Jack nodded in satisfaction "Good. I'm having BBQ at 1700."
"I shall be there." Teal'c bowed.
"Great, T, knew I could count on you. Would you mind tellin' Carter and Daniel too?"
"It shall be no difficulty."
"See you later then, T, and thanks."
Teal'c bowed slightly again and watched in silence as the General moved out of the hall, deftly evading Walter who'd come down another corridor with papers and a pen in hand.
Teal'c had the feeling Saturday would be interesting and there was no equine on this planet that would keep him away.
Jack was humming in pleasure over the simple act of burning something, occasionally taking a sip from his beer when he looked up, jumping in surprise from the sudden appearance of his former 2IC in his backyard.
What was Carter doing here already?
"Carter?" he heard the incredulity in his own tone and internally winced, but he was truly stunned to see her there.
Carter had always avoided spending any time alone with him, coming to any team nights together with the other two or after them. In 7 years of their acquaintance Jack could remember only one time Carter had dared to spend any alone time off-duty with him and even that was because of extreme circumstances, what with him dying. Yet even then she'd been hidden safely behind and protected from any suspicion from others by her involvement with another man, since everybody knew Jack O'Neill would never concede to being the 'other man'.
"Look, I... I'm sorry to bother you at home like this, but... uh ..." she looked almost painfully awkward, her eyes flitting around the backyard, refusing to meet his. Not that his own were any better...
"How'd you know I was here?" he asked uncomfortably, glancing at the house.
"I saw the smoke."
"Oh, yeah." brushing his hand down his chest he tried to conceal his nerves. This was not going the way he'd planned it. And to think, the plan he'd had, had been plan B, which usually worked.
"Look, is this... is this OK?" her expression was hesitant, as if she really didn't want to be there and it occured to Jack it was pretty much symbolic for the willingness of her involvement in what they'd once had together "I mean, I could have called first, but..." she started to back-paddle.
"No ... yeah ... I mean, it's fine. So, um..." he hummed, sending another quick glance at the house, hoping against hope that Carter would just get the hell out of there and come back at the agreed time when they would be ready for her "...what brings you by so early? On such a fine day. In my back yard. You were supposed to be here only half an hour from now."
"Well, actually, I've... um..." she cleared her throat nervously "I've been sitting in your driveway for the last ten minutes trying to work up the nerve to come and talk to you. The truth is, I've been trying to work up the nerve for a lot longer than that." She smiled nervously again.
"Oh?" he was getting a bad feelings about this.
"Pete's transfer request came through and he's moving to the Springs."
Carter wasn't sounding as happy as she should've been considering she was talking about her fiancee, the man she obviously loved, moving to her hometown.
"Well, that's great!"
"Uh, yeah. Sure."
' Wow, way to sound enthusiastic, Carter.' thought Jack.
"But?" he prodded, as she just stood there looking blankly. It was obvious that if he wouldn't pull the teeth out it would take days and they didn't have that much time. Five minutes at best.
"The... the truth is, I'm having second thoughts about the wedding."
"See, the... the thing is, the closer it gets, the more I get the feeling that... I'm making a big, huge, mistake." she rambled, channeling Jack at the end.
' Aaahhhh... So, it's only now becoming clear you're gonna loose your independence and will have to make place for something else in your life beside your career, huh, Carter?' Jack smirked invardly, secretly amused, then glanced towards the house again.
"Look, Carter, the... I don't know what..."
"I'm sorry to bother you with this, but... uh... see, there's actually a very good reason that I'm bothering you with this, and if I don't tell you now, I might never..."
"Jack, I have the ayv..."
Well, he guessed Carter would now never tell him what she'd wanted to and Jack was only all too happy for that because if she had then that would've been one very awkward situation. Even if there had been no Jen and their babies in his life Jack was not a man who let women play with his heart. He'd learned his lesson with Carter, got burned and wouldn't make the same mistake again. Whatever Carter had come there for she would've been disappointed either way. At least this way he was spared from outright telling her 'no', the situation doing that by itself.
"Lieutenant Hailey?" Carter was stunned and looked in shock from Jen to Jack, who looked up at the sky, whistling off-tune.
Nobody had seen the short Lieutenant in months, having been transferred out of the SGC quietly. Even her team and CO had been stubbornly close-mouthed about the reasons for her departure, not telling anything, and Hailey's presence in Jack's house and the sheer strangeness of that fact had rendered Sam speechless.
"Yeah, I didn't... I didn't ..." Jen stammered, flushing heavily, staring pleadingly at Jack.
Who sighed internally and jumped to his wife's help, knowing it would be unfair to burden her with what was his to deal with "We were just ... meeting here... in my back yard... on this fine day... to discuss the state of the union." Jack and Jen winced at the pun, but thankfully Carter failed to notice as she was still trying to figure out what Lieutenant Hailey was doing off-duty in General O'Neill's house. Unfortunately for her she had missed Jen calling Jack by his name because that would've at least given her an inkling.
Her eyes were jumping from Jack to Jen and back as if watching a fast-paced game of tennis, her brain feverishly trying to figure out what was going on here. The embarrassement and dread was beginning to grow on her pale face and remorse over having stalled so long with notifying the team was beginning to claw at Jack's throat.
Then her gaze stopped on Jen and her eyes widened comically when she caught sight of the large bulge that had replaced Jen's once flat belly and small waistline.
"Oh." was all she could say as the world came to a stop.
Why was Lieutenant Hailey spending alone time off-duty with her former CO and pregnant at that? How come she was pregnant in the first place?
Jack wasn't sure if Sam had finally figured it out, but considering how big a shock it had be, since from what he'd sensed she'd never believed he would move on, and with Jennifer being the last person she'd ever thought Jack would get involved with, he wasn't terribly surprised it was taking so long. She had perhaps even figured it out already, but was telling herself she was imagining things, that the situation wasn't how it looked...
"Hey, Jack." broke Daniel's voice the heavy silence suddenly "Sam, how come you're here before us?"
' Thank god for archeologists with bad timing. With the many times he'd interrupted at the wrong time he finally hit the right one.' Jack sighed relieved, greeting the two men.
Then Daniel caught sight of Jen "Lieutenant Hailey? Unexpected pleasure seeing you here."
"You too, Dr Jackson." returned Jen, awkwardly shuffling in her spot when Daniel too caught sight of her belly. On her small figure a five month pregnancy with triplets could definitely not be mistaken for anything else, much less hidden.
Seeing it was time he took the reins Jack ordered his former team mates "Carter, Daniel, T, go to the den and wait for me there. I'll with you soon to explain everything."
Dubiously they conceded and shuffled their way past the blushing Jen into the house. Jack turned off the grill and cut off Jen's retreat, gently dragging her with him. Facing SG-1 as his partner was something she would have to do, whether she wanted or not. She didn't, but Jack wouldn't let her take the coward's way out. She was a General's wife now, something that came with responsibilities, and it was time for her to start acting like one.
Arriving into the den he helped her into the armchair closest to his, took his place and turned to their friends. Then, taking a breath, he began to spin the tale.
SG-1 stared in stunned silence at the married couple sitting before them. The silence didn't last long, though.
"Uh, am I hearing this correctly?" Daniel blinked and took off his glasses, quickly wiping them "Did you really just say you two've been secretly married for the past three years and we're only hearing about it now?"
"Yup." Jack tried for nonchalance, but it fell flat, while Jen nervously moved in her seat, uncomfortable with the sort of attention she was getting from Carter and Daniel.
"And you actually expect us to believe that story?" was Daniel's flat, unbelieving reply.
"What? You want to see the marriage certificate?" Jack snarked defensively, quietly being thankful for the years in Black Ops that had sharpened his acting skills. Teal'c and Carter were sitting quietly on the sofa, Teal'c's sharp eyes scrutinizing Jack, while Sam's were unfocused, clearly still reeling from the turn of events.
"Wouldn't hurt." Daniel shrugged.
Knowing he would give himself away if he did just that, even worse, if he had the certificate ready to be shown, Jack leveled a steady glare at the younger man. Daniel gave as good as he got, until he nonetheless had to concede defeat and look away.
Still, he wasn't finished yet "So why weren't we told sooner?"
"Because it was a secret..." was said in an almost patronizing tone.
"Why?" was Daniel's belligerent come-back. Jack sighed, it seemed like so many times off-world, Carter and Teal'c had again elected Daniel to be the one doing the interrogation.
"You really have to ask?" Jack's release of exasperated breath was almost explosive "With people like Kinsey running around, just looking for ammo against us? If he could've come up with something as stupid as accusing Carter and I of fraternization, there's no telling what he would've done with the truth!"
Daniel exhaled heavily "I see your point." Jack nodded in satisfaction. Daniel then turned to Jennifer, who'd been quietly sitting by Jack's side, content to only listen. She respected SG-1, but these were Jack's friends, not hers, a feeling Jack was intent on disbanding "What about you, Lieu... Jennifer? We haven't heard your side of the story yet."
"What is there to say?" Jen shrugged, feeling backed into a corner.
"Like how you came on to your CO? How about we start with that?" Sam's sharp voice snapped through the air, causing Jack to look at her and growl in warning.
"Carterrrr." he came to his wife's rescue.
Turning to Jack, Carter's eyes were blazing steel as she apologized tightly "Sorry, sir. Sorry, Lieutenant."
Jack sighed. He hadn't expected Carter to start jumping up and down, but did everything in his life REALLY had to go the hard way?
"Look, guys." he jumped in to avoid a possible bloodshed "I'm sorry you had to find out about it only now, but I'm not sorry we kept it secret. The shit would've hit the fan if we hadn't. Jen and I are married and we love each other."
Jack was careful to meet the eyes of every member of the trio sitting before him so they could see the truth in his eyes, especially Teal'c. Teal'c was a master person-reader, but he still wasn't invincible, Jack had fooled him on numerous times, like when he was involved in that covert op. Jack was now relying on his acting skills and the fact that there were bits of the truth mixed in with the lies to convince Teal'c. If they could get Teal'c on their side the battle would already be won.
"Deal with that and as bad as it sounds, even if you knew back then your opinion still wouldn't have mattered."
Next to Jack Jennifer cringed. Jack's words were bordering on cruel, telling them they weren't important, the words aimed specifically at Daniel who made it his life's work to question Jack's decisions, many times very publicly and irrespectably, but right now Jack's goal was to put Daniel in his place and that was the only way to do it.
But then help came. "DanielJackson, you should discontinue your interrogation." Teal'c's deep baritone brooked no arguments and the archeologist hung his head sulkily.
Jennifer smothered her relieved giggle, while Jack couldn't hide the smirk, both relieved the large man had stepped in and took their side in this as the Jaffa was a formidable ally in any engagement.
Once having quieted the archeologist the regal Jaffa turned to them.
"Let me be the first to offer felicitations on your imminent parenthood and bonding, LieutenantO'Neill, O'Neill."
For the first time since SG-1 had arrived a real smiled blossomed on Jen's full lips, making her lovely face glow "Thank you, Teal'c. Jack and I are very excited."
Daniel winced at his faux pas. His usual single-mindedness in questioning Jack, his actions and motives, and interrogating the older man, had made him forget to acknowledge the fact that Jack had had the immense luck of finding a soulmate again and was about to become a father and that congratulations were in order. He immediately did just that, prodding Sam to do the same when it looked like the woman wasn't planning to. He knew she was jealous, but good grief, she had no right to act like a jilted ex or a scorned lover, considering she'd been the one against a relationship between herself and Jack and especially didn't have the right considering she'd dropped Jack like a hot potato a year ago when she'd started doing Pete.
Carter hadn't missed the continuous use of the word 'we' by both of the married couple and silently snorted to herself resentfully. She knew she really didn't have the right to act that way, but after being possessive over this man for years it was proving a habit hard to break, even though she was with another man and Jack was obviously married.
"I trust you are well?" Teal'c continued his polite inquiry.
Jen beamed "Yes, I've been feeling great ever since the morning sickness stopped. We're just fine."
Teal'c nodded in satisfaction as Daniel observed Jen's large stomach with suspicion, not wanting to be stuck in the same house if she suddenly started having contractions. The fact that he'd had to help once with a delivery didn't mean he was willing to be present at a birth again. Births are very messy and traumatising, especially for bystanders "How far along are you?"
"5 months." instinctively she rubbed her belly as a small foot struck against the wall of her womb.
"Five months!?" Daniel's voice was rich with incredulity "But how..." thankfully he stopped himself just in time before he could say something about her being big. It didn't stop Jen from glaring at him, however.
"There're three in there, Daniel." Jack's voice was smug and Jen had the feeling that if he had less self-control he would've been pointing at her stomach and proudly chanting ' I did that'. Amazing how circumstances change, 3 months ago he'd been horrified by what their one night together had done, but now he was giddy and overflowing with pride at himself over having knocked up a girl at 47.
' Guess with being in love and married one's perspective on a pregnancy is completely different than being single and pregnant.' Jen thought and sent a loving look at her husband, who returned it.
At Jack's explanation both of Teal'c's eyebrows shot as far up his forehead as they would go, while Daniel choked on his drink and Sam went all red.
Amused, she met Jack's eyes again, this time finding a matching twinkle there.
Oh yeah, this was so worth waiting with announcing her pregnancy!
"What do you think Teal'c?" asked Daniel as he, the Jaffa in question and the blond Lt Col were walking towards their cars "Think Jack's telling the truth?" the doubt was obvious in his voice.
"I believe O'Neill was indeed being truthful. He and LieutenantO'Neill are indeed bonded. Their..." he paused for a second, looking for the phrase "their body language is indeed that of two bonded mates.
It was quiet for a second before Daniel whined "But why didn't he tell us!?"
Teal'c stopped and faced him, one eyebrow raised high "O'Neill explained sufficiently, DanielJackson, and you will stop this now or your shall have to facilitate public transportation on your journey home."
Sam, still shocked from the revelations of the past few hours, couldn't help but giggle at Teal'c's' threat and Daniel's childish pout, then said goodbye and drove home.
Daniel wanted to protest one last time, but his friend's warning glare froze the words in his chest and he got into the Jaffa's borrowed HMMWV.
Members of the SGC were surprised when one day they came to work to find Sgt Tompson sitting behind a desk right next to the elevator that connected SGC to NORAD, handing out some strange trinkets to people on a list he had before him.
"What's this, Jerry?" his friend Sgt Barney asked him upon receiving his own keychain-ornament.
"I don't have a clue, Bob." shook Jerry his head, intercepting another couple of men leaving the elevator and wanting to board the elevator that served only the SGC "But I was given this list from the brass and orders to hand them out. You're supposed to keep it on yourself for the whole day and then return it when you check out."
"It's a transponder." interrupted Dr Lee who had just collected his own trinket. Seeing he had everyone's full attention, for by now a crowd had gathered he explained "A homing beacon for the Asgard beaming technology. It's supposed to make it easier for a single person to be beamed through interference or a large group of people at the same time. We finished developing it just last month. At least now I know why they gave such a large order for them."
"Huh." muttered Barney, his sentiment echoed by the crowd that had by now gathered.
"Lt Col Carter!" somebody called when Carter just then left the elevator and was accosted by Tompson "Do you know anything about this?"
Carter, taking her transponder, shook her head in bewilderment "Sorry, I don't, but I'll go ask the General."
The rest of the crowd looked at each other meaningfully. Since the conception of her affair with the IQ-deprived cop, whom the ones who'd met him called The Hobbit, the wedge between her and the male members of SG-1 had become apparent even to the most uninformed, so it was of no surprise that she wasn't being kept up to date about such developments by the General.
At her last words Tompson felt it prudent he warn her "The General also said that if anyone comes bug him about this he'll personally kick their butts down the steps to the control room and then have them put on the toilet detail." then deepened his voice to get his message across "No matter who they are."
Oh, yeah, that sure sounded like O'Neill when he was in a bad mood. The few people speculating on a possible foothold situation gave up upon hearing that. And then began hoping they wouldn't have to deal with O'Neill today, as this was obviously not his day.
MEANWHILE IN JACK'S OFFICE
Jack O'Neill, the man of the hour, was just then leaning back in his large chair, feet on his desk, the blinds closed, as he played with his yoyo. The man was actually in a good mood, an even better one because with putting up yet another smoke screen about himself he had bought himself a few hours of peace and tranquility.
Letting out a pleased sigh he decided to take a short nap to make up for the cravings-run he'd had to do last night. Living with a pregnant woman was exhausting.
A few hours later the PA system suddenly came to life and the whistle, used to announce important messages, sounded throughout the underground base. Everyone perked up in interest, certain they were about to get the answers to their questions.
"This is General O'Neill, listen up."
Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked up at the loudspeakers even though they knew they wouldn't be able to see the man himself.
"This morning at entering the base some of you received transponders, developed by Dr Lee's staff. In five minutes you will all be beamed to another location for an important announcement. When people around you start disappearing do not panic. Those of you who did not get these transponders, didn't so because you are the essential crew and are needed on the base. You will be able to view a direct transmission over the PA tannoys and monitors. O'Neill, out."
A hush of conversation exploded around the base, the suppressed desire to speculate and guess taking over as people gave it free reign. The next few minutes were filled with nervous anticipation and not much work was done as everyone was too excited.
When people finally began disappearing the relief that went through others was almost palpable because they would finally know what this was all about.
The transfer went without a hitch, except for Lt Blake who'd been in the canteen eating at the moment he'd been beamed. His reacquainting with Mother Earth was not something his tail-bone would soon forget.
Looking around they noticed they were in a large conference hall with lined-up chairs taking most of the room. A podium was at the front with all the paraphernalia that came with it. Together with General O'Neill in his much-hated blues.
"Be seated." his voice rang out and everyone obeyed without hesitation.
Once everyone had taken their places and the noise died down he continued "You all wonder why you've been brought here and where 'here' is exactly." he said, looking at the interested faces, then, after a dramatic pause, he took up his narration "You are right now sitting in the conference room of the newly built Homeworld Security Headquarters (HWS HQ), here next to Eglin AFB, Florida."
A surprised murmur went through the hall at this revelation.
"This location was selected because of it's privacy, existing infrastructure and enough open space. Next to HWS's office and everything that's needed for it to be fully functional there are also research labs as well as several other departments, next to the regular on-base housing. How it all came to this, I will leave to General Hammond to explain."
Everyone started clapping and cheering as Hammond stood up from one of the chairs set on the edge of the podium, back enough so the occupants were hidden by shadows.
"Thank you, General O'Neill. Last year, with the creation of the Homeworld Security office the SGC program won a major victory. With the office we not only shook off any chance of being integrated into some other command and thus became official, but we also received the chance to start making our own rules. While the civilians who, under the sponsorship of the Air Force, created the predecessor of the SGC decades ago and laid down rules, guidelines and operational directives were well intentioned they were still only civilians and as such didn't have a real idea of how the military works and what this program itself would be like. That is the reason for most, if not all, the irrational ways of doing things that had plagued us for the last 8 years, ones I'm sure you have noticed long ago. Many changes will be taking place, changes that I will let General O'Neill to explain, as he was the one to propose and push for them."
Jack took his place and waited for the clapping to end "Right, I'll start with the changes to SG teams. I'll name just a few, others will be listed on the memos you'll all receive. As of tomorrow team leaders will have more freedom in choosing team weaponry and other equipment, thus the team's armaments will be more logical and adapted to their target destination. This means no more stupid quirks like only submachine guns assigned to all the teams, especially the ones being sent on planets with lots of open space, while other more appropriate weapons were sitting in some warehouse somewhere. If a team will be sent on a planet where the engagement distances will be longer than 50 yards they will be given assault rifles for their accuracy and stopping power. Until now everyone had submachine guns, like the P-90, HK MP5, M4A1, etc., which are suitable only for close-quarters battles and definitely not for engagements out in the open as their accuracy is too poor. M16s, new variants of the M14, Sig553, HK G36, together with other assault rifles will be to your disposal from now on and even some exotics, like the AK-47 and AK-101, famous for their stopping power and reliability being far superior to any American or Western weapon, even if they aren't as accurate on longer ranges as some other rifles. For these mission the support weapons will no longer be pistols but machine-pistols, like the UZI, the Ingram, the Scorpion and others, in case they are to unexpectedly enter the danger of a close quarters battle.
"Further, combat teams will be expanded to 6 members and the number of these teams will rise in order to provide protection for every scientific or exploratory team going off-world, as their numbers will be lowered slightly. A new team configuration, but one long since usual in infantry combat units, is that every combat team will have a dedicated machine gunner, a designated marksman and an AA specialist. The other three members will each be additionally equipped with a M-72 LAW (light anti-tank weapon). I know many of you have wondered through the years why SG teams were armed with light weapons only. The reason were the directives that we have now removed and replaced with new, better ones. Next, the number of teams will be expanded, also introducing one completely new team: made up with PJs (Pararescuemen). They will have the opportunity of being the first to use the completely new experimental aircraft, based on the puddle-jumper, the CX-306 (CX: Cargo eXperimental).
"Since the first days of the SGC I've been trying to alert the powers that be of the fact that with the time allotted for specific missions the ground teams can cover on foot is too small to give us any true idea of the conditions on that world, besides making them a lot more vulnerable to ambush and attacks because of their slow speed, but until now I have been unable to do anything about that. Until now. Therefore: next week the SGC will receive the first shipment of electricity-powered ATVs (all-terrain-vehicles) or 'quads' as some call them. They will be used by ALL teams, unless the terrain of the target planet is too rough, so every team member will have to qualify on them. If they don't qualify then they're off the team. Why electricity and not gasoline? Because it's quieter and thus safer and because it's less likely to upset the natives as they won't be producing any foul-smelling exhaust fumes. We've destroyed our own world, no need to do the same to others as well."
The discipline of his subordinates made Jack proud as everyone stayed quiet instead of starting to talk loudly when he dropped these bombs on them. Seeing them on the edge of their seats he continued his explanation.
"The next personnel reform will affect the scientific staff. Unlike before, from now on all scientific team members will have to qualify with assault rifles, to the same standard as every other soldier in the US armed forces, if they'll want to be on the teams. No more team members either unarmed or armed with just pistols, or simply poorly trained, using the excuse of not being real soldiers as a reason for their low marksmanship skills. The combat-sustained injury and death toll among them has been too high and at this rate the US would've run out of scientists within five years." while everyone chuckled at Jack's joke they all knew how serious the situation was. Science teams have always taken heavy casualties and it was about time something had changed "They'll have to be able to defend themselves until a combat and a PJ team are sent for them."
Taking a deep breath he plunged on, announcing the biggest change "With the construction of new research resources and capacities, the on-base science personnel won't be spared from changes either. Their specialties, education and training will from now on be more efficiently utilized, while enhancing their numbers with new blood. No more theoretical astrophysicists playing engineers. No more astronomers playing biologists. No more engineers playing seismologists. The SGC's layout will be restructured and new modifications incorporated. The only on-base science personnel left at the SGC will be the engineers, chemists and micro-biologists who will from now on be the only personnel to work on off-world technological finds as they are also the only ones properly trained. Other SGC, non-engineer and non-chemist, members who have over the years shown particular talent for technological research and development will be given the option of being assigned to this department full-time.
"Thus, the only departments still assigned there will be the ones working with doohickeys or developing technology that is in any way dangerous and thus not best suited for such an open and more-public-than-the-SGC base such as HWS HQ. Here we can't afford mysterious explosions, pathogens on the loose, viral and bacterial outbreaks, full-base-lock-outs and quaranteens,... Scientists of other specialties will be transferred to HWS HQ's labs where they will continue their work in a much-safer environment, away from any possible foothold or quarantine situations. The staffs of both bases will also be expanded by newly-hired members in order to get the departments to full manpower. All the personnel assigned to HWS HQ will have the option of either on-base or off-base housing. The purpose of all these changes is the better use of available resources and giving people the opportunity to advance in their fields faster by having them concentrate on one field only instead of having to guess and improvise when working on fields they don't know much about and are not trained in. Had we been able to implement this at the start of the program we wouldn't have had so many failures, mistakes, slip-ups and everything we did would've been done better, faster and safer. That doesn't mean your efforts and ingenuity were unappreciated, but there were times we could've avoided problems if we had trained specialists on hand. With the escalation of the war the program itself needs to grow and be ready for any eventuality. Also, you will have the chance to publish the results of your research and gain professional reputation if the official-secrets-committee will give you the all-clear. The last couple of changes will affect the command echelons, which I will leave to General Hammond to explain."
Stunned and bewildered applause sounded out as everyone took the chance to exchange words of surprise with their neighbor.
"I'm finally retiring." announced George, having expected the explosion of protests that proclamation brought out of his ex-subordinates "I wanted to retire 8 years ago, but was pulled back in to take command of the SGC. It's not something I regretted, well, not most of the time, but it has taken me a lot from my family, something I now wish to rectify. With my promotion to a pensioner my place as the Head of HWS will be taken by General O'Neill who is being promoted to Major General." his voice was drowned out by the cheering and applause of the crowd, so vehement that it embarrassed even Jack "He will be replaced as the CO of the SGC by Colonel Reynolds, who is also being promoted." another cheering sounded, almost as loud as for Jack. It came as no surprise, though, for both men were very much liked by their subordinates, who were obviously pleased these two were getting the recognition they deserved.
"Now, Colonel, or should I say Brigadier General, Reynolds has asked for the promotions ceremony to take place where his wife attend. On the other hand, General O'Neill has no such problems." George winked at Jack who let out a small grin, while Jen took a deep breath, willing her nerves to settle.
The crowd went silent, some of them appalled and surprised at the callous reference over Jack's failed marriage, something they hadn't expected from Hammond.
Swearing Jack in as a Major General and handing over the command to him was done quickly, but contrary to other such occasions with just as important commands it was done without the fanfare and the press, since this was after all a top secret program. Everyone thought the business had been completed and were again launching into an enthusiastic applause when Hammond hushed them and said something that stunned everyone into silence. He turned to the row of chairs behind him, declaring loudly.
"Will General O'Neill's wife, Lieutenant Jennifer O'Neill, please do the honors?"
Jack helped his wife to her feet and everyone gasped when Jennifer Hailey waddled into view. They didn't know what to be more surprised over: the fact that General O'Neill was married, that they didn't know that, that the young spitfire Jennifer Hailey was the one who'd caught him or that she was pregnant with their child. In any case, it was a lot to take in.
Smirking slightly at having to bend his knees so much for Jen to pin those stars on his shoulders, Jack's smirk widened even more when Jen scowled at him upon noticing his grin and realizing what was amusing him.
Then when she was done and only the congralutory kiss remained (usually put on the cheek), she twined the fingers of both hands in the hair on the back of his head, yanked him down to her level and claimed his lips in a kiss so passionate his eyes widened in surprise. He wasn't the only one, the hall was filled with gasps before a dead silence reigned as everyone stared at the display before them, men envying Jack and many of the single women jealous of Jen. In the front row Teal'c just stared impasively at the man he considered his brother, while Daniel blushed in embarrassment and looked away, frowning in puzzlement when he caught sight of Sam's hard eyes, lips compressed into a thin, angry line and white knuckles. He shook his head ' She'll get over it.'
Shocked at her own behaviour, not having planned to do what she'd done, but satisfied she had staked her claim before any woman who'd even think of dreaming about Jack, Jen let him go. Grinning at his still speechless expression she, in a very territorial manner, straightened his tie and jacket while he recovered his composure.
George cleared his throat, blushing a little from Jen's display, and diverted the attention away from the couple "Well, now that that's done, what do you say we take a look at the new base?"
Recognizing an order when they heard one they left quietly out the large double doors, while Hammond stayed behind, waiting for every last one of them to get out. Looking back at the couple on the podium as they argued over something, then realizing what it was when Jen lost, then followed Jack's directions by lowering herself into a chair again, while her husband contacted the Asgard to beam them out, Hammond sighed.
While he had no doubt this was the right choice for him and his family, the next couple of years would definitely be interesting and he couldn't help but rue that he, not only wouldn't see these two work together in the same building, but wouldn't get to spend so much time with all the people who'd been like a second family to him for so long. In the end, however, he knew it was time to retire.
It was time for the younger generation to take over.
Reynolds' swear-in ceremony and command handover took place the next day, on AF Academy grounds.
When it was all over and the crowd of people moved into the next hall where food and drinks were waiting for them, Jen joined Jack and the new CO of the SGC.
"So the rumors are true, I see." Reynolds said as he shook the couple's hands.
"Yep." Jack replied, a little guiltily. Scratching at the back of his head he tried to explain "Look, Al, about me not telling you..."
Albert Reynolds shook his head "You don't need to explain anything, Jack, I fully understand the situation being on a need-to-know basis and I simply didn't need to know."
"Let me offer you my congratulations on your marriage and the pregnancy." Albert wished them both, accepting their thanks, then turned to Jen "I don't need to explain what a lughead you got there, Lieutenant, no-one knows it better than yourself," he grinned when Jack scowled "but I'm still thankful you two found each other. He's the best damn actor I've ever seen, but not even he could hide how happy he's been lately and it's something we owe to you and little O'Neill in there. The entire SGC command and now even the entire Homeworld Security thanks you." his mischevious grin was answered by Jen.
"No problem, Colonel." she joked, but snuggling closer into Jack nonetheless "It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it." saying that she suddenly squeaked, then blushed and glared at Jack.
Jack, an image of pure innocence looked at Reynolds who only shook his head, chuckling.
"Don't do that in public." Jen hissed at Jack "You know I'm ticklish there."
"Yeah, I know." a slow smile, the kind he'd given Carter and Daniel after the time loops, spread his lips "Why d'you think I did it?"
Jen just rolled her eyes.
"Have you two already decided what you'll do?"
At their inquisitive look Reynolds explained "What I meant is: will you stay in the Air Force or leave to take care of your family?"
It was legitimate question, one they had already discussed. Military pregnancies are hard but what few civilians know is that a pregnant service-member has the right to terminate her service at anytime during the pregnancy without consequences and regardless of how much longer she has left in her contract. Thus women have 9 months to decide if they want to stay in or leave to stay with their children and those who decide to stay in have to make sacrifices in their own and their families' names for the good of the service. Many women end up taking the out so Reynolds' curiosity was understandable.
"I'm staying in, but I won't be returning to the team roster at any time in the future." it had been a hard decision to make, but she knew she'd decided correctly to choose her family over her career. As much as she loved her job and as much as her career had been important to her, she wouldn't risk her children losing their mother just because she wanted to wander around the galaxy like a single woman without the responsibility in the world, all for the thrill of being shot at. She was about to become a mother of three and three children needed BOTH parents, which meant that Jack would regulate his work hours too, working strictly from 9 to 5 and going home earlier than that whenever opportunities presented themselves
"When Doctor Brightman confirmed my pregnancy Jack had me transferred to an admin position at the Academy." Reynolds nodded in understanding as it was the SOP (standard operating procedure) for pregnant women who'd been until then serving in hazardous conditions to be transferred to an admin position "Two weeks ago my Doctor put me on medical leave until I start my maternity leave. I'll be going from my maternity leave directly to a new position in the new labs of HWS HQ."
True, it was a pretty lengthy explanation, but Reynolds deserved to know why he wouldn't be getting her under his command.
"You will be missed, Lieutenant, and good luck." he wished her and she nodded in thanks.
Then he turned to Jack "You're one lucky bastard, Jack. Not just because of the obvious..." he looked meaningfully at Jen, who blushed at his compliment "but also because now Linda will finally leave you alone."
Jack looked relieved at that, while Jen looked confused. ' Isn't Linda Reynolds' wife? Why wouldn't she leave Jack alone? ' At her interrogative stare Jack just shrugged and mouthed ' Later.'
She glared at him, but nodded.
After that they talked with the freshly-baked General for a few minutes before exchanging pleasantries and then she and Jack moved on.
To the nearest group of chairs where she had to obey Jack and rest for a while. Though the feminist in her was incensed and wanted to put up a fight he was right and she knew it. Her feet were already hurting and her ankles were swollen too. Even through her stubbornness she knew she tired quickly nowadays, her body just wasn't meant to carry three children, but she also knew that if she didn't have a man as strong as Jack who wouldn't let her roll over him and would be able to take control at any time if necessity required, who'd hold her back from doing anything stupid and reckless, like pushing herself even though she was pregnant, she would've ignored the clear signals her body was giving her that it was plainly wasn't a good idea to push herself and that trying to do as much as she had before she was pregnant would be plain stupid.
At her last check-up when she, in response to her Doctor telling her to slow down, said that she was no invalid, just pregnant and that she could still do everything she did before her pregnancy, that women have been giving birth for thousands of years, the Dr Kelly had disagreed and had had a good, solid comeback, one that had had her start thinking differently.
"Yes, women have been having babies for thousands of years, but they've also been miscarrying and dying from complications for just as long. Even nowadays, every year women in the West miscarry, 700.000 worldwide even die, something that in many cases would never have happened if only they hadn't been stubborn and would've acknowledged the fact that they were pregnant, that they simply couldn't do the things they did before, not without endangering their babies and their own lives. You've got to understand that not only are you pregnant, which alone would make any smart woman mellow her life and take better care of herself, but you're also pregnant with triplets. Not only does that alone make it a high-risk pregnancy, but it's made worse by the fact that your body simply wasn't made to accomodate so many babies. Just last month one of my patients miscarried in her 6th month. She and her husband have been hikers for years now and they went out on one of their regular hikes. Even though she was still fit the stress her body went through on that hike, the demands something she used to do regularly, every week, was too much for her body and she lost the baby. She was lucky she got to the hospital so quickly because she almost died herself."
That had been a real bucket of cold water and from then on whenever Jack had countered her decision or intention, in the interest of hers and their babies' health, she always obeyed him. Occasional protests were always merely token and never without any conviction behind them, even when she tried to use the Asgard implant in her favor. As much as they trusted the Asgard it was still better to be preventive and cautious than having to do damage control.
When Jen was seated she pinned Jack to the spot with her sharp eyes, demanding answers.
"Okay, Jack, I'm waiting for that explanation you promised. Why wouldn't Mrs Reynolds leave you alone?"
In his mind's eye he could easily imagine her standing, arms crossed over her chest and a rolling pin in one hand, while one of her feet tapped against the floor impatiently.
"Nothing that dramatic." he dismissed her worries "She's just been wanting to set me up with her friends ever since Reynolds tranferred in. She was offering to set me up with a different friend every time I saw Reynolds and her."
"And did you ever take her up on one of her offers?" she demanded.
"Oh, come on, Jen! I was never desperate for companionship." Jack protested, hurt, then grumbled "And certainly not desperate enough to let myself be set-up by someone."
"You were waiting for Lt Col Carter." Jen stated, with a subdued voice.
Even though she intellectually knew she had no right to be angry at him for loving other women before her she couldn't help herself. She didn't know whether it was a flaw of her character that had always been there, waiting until she'd have a claim on a man, or whether it was because of the hormones coursing through her system, messing with her emotions even more than being in love and in a relationship for the first time was doing already.
"Yeah." Jack sighed, running a hand over his face. Seeing her face fall he crouched down before her, taking her small hands in his own. Even though she didn't turn them to hold his, she still didn't pull away from him and he took that as a small victory. Quickly looking around he checked they were alone, since he was about to make confessions that weren't for foreign ears.
"But Carter is the past, honey, whatever I felt for her is gone now. Whatever feelings I had for her will never be able to compete with how I feel for you. I love you, First Lieutenant Jennifer O'Neill and you had better get that stuck into your thick head or..."
Jen's sad expression turned into a gentle smile the more Jack said and when he stopped she asked in amusement "Or else what?"
Jack shrugged "I don't know yet, but I'm sure I'll think of something. I'd like to say I'd spank you, after you've given birth and healed of course, but you'd like that too much." her naughty smile was all the confirmation he needed.
Slinging her arms around his neck she pulled him closer, planting a kiss on his lips "You're forgiven."
Indulging in the kiss for a second, Jack's forehead furrowed "Forgiven?"
He pulled back in consternation, drawing a whimper of complaint from his wife "There's nothing to be forgiven here, Jen, I didn't do anything wrong. We weren't even together then." his eyes sharpened and he set his jaw, determined to rid her mind of stupid ideas "You may be my wife, but don't even think of playing those female mind games with me, Jen, I won't let you."
Instantly she felt ashamed and her eyes were troubled "I'm sorry, Jack, I don't know why I said it, but I promise I'll never do anything like that again."
Sincerity shined in her dark orbs and, seeing she was telling the truth, Jack nodded "Okay, Jen, I just... I don't want us to screw this up and there are few things that can destroy a relationship faster than mind games."
"I don't want to mess this up either." she whispered and sniffled, then cursed her hormones.
Wiping the tears away with his thumb he chuckled "Stop crying or you'll look like a panda."
That brought a giggle out of her and Jack took a seat next to her, relieved that they'd resolved a problem before it could become a problem.
Maybe they did have a shot at this marriage thing working after all.
After a few minutes of resting and talking quietly to each other Jack helped Jennifer up and they moved to another room where tables with food were set up.
Again Jack seated Jennifer and went to fetch food for both of them, by know knowing what food she liked and what she didn't like.
They were quite contently munching and talking away when Jack caught sight of something that made him groan.
Jen stopped eating and raised an eyebrow at him. Jerking with his chin Jack motioned to her left and when she tracked his line of sight her eyes fell on two of his former team-mates making their way towards them.
Daniel was wearing his classic very determined, sulky and pissed off expression as he made his way through the crowd, while Teal'c was his stoic self as he followed the younger man. But if you knew the Jaffa as well as Jack did you'd know he was uncomfortable because of how his left eyes was twitching.
"And here comes the Spanish Inquisition." Jack moaned pitifully "I had hoped we would have at least a few minutes more before Daniel found us."
Even with the severity of their situation Jen couldn't help but giggle "You know what they say, honey,..."
Locking their eyes together they spoke as one, repeating the line from Jack's favorite group, a band of comedians Jen had during their marriage and through Jack's influence grown to like as well.
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"
They burst out laughing which just made Daniel, who'd finally arrived, scowl even more, not knowing what they found so amusing. He crossed his arms over his chest, huffing as he sulked even more. The fact that they had inside jokes, that Jack had inside jokes with someone outside SG-1, made him upset, even though such a thing is quite normal between spouses.
Jen's giggles and Jack's deeper chuckles slowly died down as they tried to collect themselves for the coming face-off. O'Neill had a pretty good guess what had pissed off the younger man, but didn't care. Daniel's belief Jack had to answer to him and justify his decisions to him had always been the source of irritation for the General, especially since this twisted possessiveness Daniel had over him had fueled many stupid rumors of them being gay and lovers.
Being suspected and/or accused of homosexuality is something that pisses off every straight man, especially a traditional, military man like Jack. It not only questions a man's manliness, but rumors like this are contra-productive to retaining one's authority and respect by one's subordinates, which is essential for anyone in the military, especially authority figures like Colonels and Generals.
How anyone can come up with such epicly stupid ideas was still beyond Jack's understanding, but he had long since given up trying to understand some people, he just classified them hopelessly stupid.
One of the plenty good side-effects of his marriage to the lovely, young brunette sitting next to him was that it had disbanded all those rumors, re-asserted his authority and made even those weirdoes finally give into the fact that their leader was straight.
Deciding to make a point Jack kept eating, feeling the heat of Daniel's angry glare as it scorched his head. Jen, on the other hand, greeted the two men, gaining a grunt from Daniel and the expected polite response from Teal'c, together with an inquiry as to the health of her and the babies.
Looking at his wife from the corner of his eyes Jack saw her put her fork down, but instead of putting the small plate back on the table she propped it up on her large belly, something she'd started doing lately, like when watching TV. Jack had refrained from pointing out just how amusing he found this practice because he was sure she'd stop doing it and that would've been a cryin' shame. It was too damn funny and it entertained him too much for him to want to endanger it.
Meanwhile he kept eating and ignoring Daniel, feeling the other man continue to boil, but unwilling to be the one to surrender and say something first.
While Jen and Teal'c talked, Jack's and Daniel's battle of wills lasted for another two minutes until the younger man broke down just as Jack had expected he would, knowing how impatient Daniel was.
"Jaaaacccckkkk!" he wailed finally "Stop ignoring me!"
Sending an I-told-you-so wink his wife's way Jack looked up, surprise etched on his face "Teal'c? Daniel? Sorry, didn't see you there. When did you get here?"
"Yeah, I'm sure..." huffed Daniel, but switched tacts, deciding to go for the jugular "You didn't discuss it with us."
"Discuss what?" Jack frowned, playing dumb, but knowing full well what the archeologist was talking about.
"You know damn well what I'm talking about!" at Jack's continued feigned ignorance he growled "You didn't talk about accepting the promotion and transfer to SG-1. Hell, you didn't even tell us you were offered!"
Jack sighed, dropping the act, letting his exasperation mixed with irritation to be plain "No, I didn't, Daniel."
Seeing Daniel open his mouth to say something Jack raised his finger, cutting him off, earning himself a glare.
He needed to get something through Daniel's thick skull for good.
"Remind me, please: since when do I have to answer to you for everything I do? 'Coz last I checked I was married to Jen... And I did discuss the proposal with my wife and she did agree with me it's the best thing for us and our family."
Seeing Daniel taken aback he pressed forth his advantage "And my wife is the only person I have to talk to when making decisions this big." he concluded, intensifying his glare as he drove his point home "Wouldn't you agree?"
Seeing he had lost the battle and the war Daniel had no other choice but to concede to the truth in Jack's words. Nodding, he mumbled "You're right. I'm sorry. I'll go see now what's keeping Sam."
Jack nodded in acknowledgment and watched the younger man walk away before turning to Teal'c "Hey, T, wassup?"
They hadn't been talking for 4 minutes when Daniel showed up, dragging a displeased Sam and an eager Shanahan with him. Jack grimaced, not disliking the man for boinking Carter, but for the person he was and the shit he got the SGC, and SG-1 specifically, into.
Never mind the fact that he'd almost gotten them all killed along with helping a Snakehead escape... for all Pete had known SG-1 could've been staking out dangeorus criminals, about to release/setup a biological/nuclear/chemical weapon and he had still intruded and blown their cover and stake-out. ' Idiot ' was too nice a word for him, in fact it was an insult to idiots around the world. They really should invent a word that would appropriately describe stupidity and idiocy of this magnitude.
"Pat." Jack greeted the Hobbit, shaking his hand, his smile more the kind the alpha wolf gives the omega. Still, to Jack's credit, he was trying to hide his feelings.
"It's Pete." corrected both Sam and Pete, while Daniel and Jennifer tried to hide their grins and Teal'c only raised an eyebrow.
By now suitably chastened over his earlier behaviour, Daniel took the opportunity while Jack was talking to the soon-to-be-married couple to apologise to Jen. Shaking her head she waved his concern away and used the chance to ask something that had been niggling at her ever since he'd showed up with his entourage.
"THIS is Pete?" she whispered to Daniel, eyeing the short, plump guy with the big, potato-shaped head and stupid grin "This... this... twit?"
Aghast she tried to figure out what any woman would ever see in him, much less why a supposedly highly intelligent woman like Samantha Carter would want to marry him, especially with all the things he'd done. Jen very much doubted one could have an intelligent, stimulating conversation with him, which lead to the conclusion Carter was in it for just the sex. But getting married just for sex? Now THAT was pathetic.
Daniel chuckled "Yeah, but you've met him before, don't you remember?" at her blank look he explained "At Sam's engagement party?"
"I don't actually remember that night." Jen blushed.
Thinking quickly she improvised "Jack and I had a fight that I started over something really stupid that morning and I got drunk out of spite." she added the last part so that Jack wouldn't end up looking like an asshole and that Daniel wouldn't give her any undeserved sympathy.
"Oh." Daniel nodded. Thinking back now he did remember how strange it'd seemed to him for Jack to leave the party seconds after the young female officer. A point of relief, thanks to information he now possessed and then hadn't, was that Jack hadn't been drinking himself blind because of Sam, but because of a silly fight with Jen.
"I don't know why I got so angry at him over it, probably hormones hitting early." she added with a hidden, evil grin, quietly satisfied when Daniel blushed and shuffled in discomfort. One sure way of making a man you're not involved with uncomfortable and/or to drop the topic: bring into the conversation hormones and other female issues stemming from the reproductive system.
By this time Jack had gotten rid of Pete, which had the unfortunate side-effect of the man coming over to greet Jen.
"Pete, you remember LT Hailey from our engagement party." Sam made the refresh-the-memory introductions as the two shook hands.
Jen noted how Sam refused to acknowledge the fact that Jack was married to Jen, or even the fact that Jack had married someone else than Sam. That made Jen send a well-deserved glare at the older woman, telegraphing her displeasure over Sam's refusal to let Jack go. Sam averted her eyes, pretending she hadn't received the message.
"Actually, it's LT O'Neill." Jen emphasised to make her point and remind the troublesome Lt Col of the reality. Seeing Pete was still not getting she explained "I'm Jack's wife."
After a few false starts the bulb finally came on over Pete's head and his eyes grew to epic proportions.
"Wow, I didn't know General O'Neill was married."
Jen smiled tightly and nodded "Well, he is. To me." she again emphasised the last part.
Seeing Daniel getting Sam involved in a conversation while Jack was discussing something with Teal'c Pete took the chance to find out what seemed strange to him.
"Isn't it weird to... you know?"
Jen didn't like this man already, he was the type who didn't know when to keep his nose out of other people's business, and she felt pity for him over his obvious lack of intelligence. Where in the world had Carter found him? More to the point: if she was really such a highly intelligent woman why would Carter hook up with this guy? Pete had the intellectual level of a flea. Or maybe everyone was wrong and Carter wasn't such a genius after all...
"I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean." Jen shook her head in confusion "What's weird?"
Pete looked around and then leaned in closer to speak in confidence, making Jen uncomfortable and prompting her to immediately put some distance between them.
"You're not even 30. Isn't it weird to be married to such an old guy and do... things... with him? Is he even capable of... you know?" he gave her a look that spoke clearly of what he was implying.
Jen couldn't keep the distaste and anger off her face as she coolly replied "Mr Shanahan, I don't care for this conversation."
Her face hardened as she continued, laying a hand on her burgeoning belly "And if you doubt my children's parentage, my loyalty and love for my husband ever again, I'll make sure that you won't be able to... you know..." her beautiful brown eyes were steely as she threw his own phrase back at him.
Seeing him about to say something she pre-empted his speech about treatening a police officer "And that, Detective, was not a threat, it was a promise."
And with the gait of a severely pissed-off woman she stalked away, as best as she could in her condition, towards the general direction of her General hubby, fuming all the way.
Feeling her babies' upset movements inside her Jen did her best to calm down.
' Breathe in, breathe out. Come on, Jen, don't be stupid, don't let yourself get carried away. Think of the kids and what Jack will do if he sees you in this state.'
There was no guessing what Jack would do because she knew precisely.
He would confront the source of her and their children's distress, something that would end badly for Pete, then he would...
Um, no scratch that.
Jack would reschedule the confrontation for later, especially this would mean there would be no witnesses later. The first thing he'd namely do would be to get Jen out of there and home, where he'd fuss over her even more. It was also a possibility she wouldn't be allowed out of bed for a while because he would be too afraid for her and their kids.
Jen was no doubt a strong person, she had to be to get accepted into the SGC, but even on her best day she wasn't able to win in a battle of wills against Jack. Then again, no-one was.
Jack the Killer of Gods, Jack who's name the Goa'uld spoke with hate, admiration and fear; Jack who held his own against the most up-tight and/or crooked bureaucrats and politicians out there,...
His mother-henning frustrated her to no end, but when she had a quiet moment she had to admit she understood his over-protectiveness.
Even before she'd gotten pregnant she could only imagine the pain and suffering the loss of a child causes to it's parent, but now... If she'd been in Jack's shoes and lost a child she knew she wouldn't have been able to cope, she would've fallen apart.
How could she hold this protectiveness, concern and love against Jack after all he had gone through?
It was simple, she couldn't.
Not just because of that, but also because she was all too aware of how lucky she was to have him, that he was alive, how close to his own self-destruction he'd been. She was all too keenly aware of how close she'd been of losing this life she had now, the life she liked and loved more than anything, the life that was better than the one she'd had before.
His work with the SGC, but mainly the people on Abydos, had saved Jack and Jen would be eternally grateful to them. It was a testament of how cruel the universe is that all these people Jen owed so much to were dead now.
On the way over to the table she passed Carter heading to Pete.
Feeling a small hand on his shoulder Jack looked up, mouth extending into a smile of it's own accord.
"Hey." he smiled softly, pulling out the chair by his side back so she could sit down.
"Hey." she said back, leaning forward to plant a gentle kiss on his lips. She could feel his smile broaden against her lips before they parted. Jack slipped his right arm around her slim shoulders as his left hand took it's customary place on her belly, rubbing the hardness there.
Through the short echange they were oblivious to their friends, unaccustomed to their leader displaying any kind of affection at all, much less such a public one. Teal'c raised an eyebrow while Daniel just rolled his eyes and huffed, crossing his arms over his chest in annoyance.
"What did Shanahan want?"
"Oh, nothing, he just wanted pointers on how to be married to someone from the SGC." she fibbed.
Jack's eyebrow rose, it was clear he didn't buy it, but wasn't about to pursue it further in public. Yet he wasn't about to drop it and Jen knew they would be talking about it sooner or later, so she nodded in agreement.
"We gotta keep talking, keep the lines open. The main reason why my first marriage failed was because Sara and I stopped talking to each other. Which allowed me to bottle it all up. It's true what they say, never go to bed angry. I learned from my mistakes and of others' and don't want a repeat performance."
"Okaaaay... but you do realize that means you're not allowed to clam up or hold your feelings in, right?"
Sigh. "Yeah, I know, but as I said I'm determined to do anything to make this work."
"Good, glad to know." a kiss "Cause I'm determined to make it work too."
More smooching, then a disappointed growl at an unwanted premature ending of the make-out session.
"Now, what do you think of the color samples for the nursery I found in this magazine?"
A wary look, which prompts the reminder "You promised to be open with your feelings."
A sigh. "Okay. ...If you want our kids' room to have that color than make sure there's a puke-bucket for me in it too."
That way when Jack found out what Shanahan had said to her he'd be too far away to do anything rash.
For now she was just content to sit with her husband and their friends and socialize. Soon, they wouldn't have that chance anymore.
Just as Jack was starting to believe, not just hope, they were in the clear his hopes were cruelly shot down by a higher power.
A mildly familiar middle aged woman bustled up to their table with the energy and self-confidence of a captain of the cheerleading team agitating for the Prom Queen.
Rolling his eyes covertly in annoyance Jack huffed as he stood up to greet the woman, Teal'c and Daniel following his example. Jen remained sitting, her current condition making standing up a chore and, unless it was absolutely necessary, she avoided it.
Her curiosity was at an all-time high, though, seeing the pained expression on Jack's face and amusement warring with sympathy on Daniel's.
Most of the confusion cleared when Jen realized why the woman had looked so familiar. It looked like she would not only get her explanation, but also a demonstration of what had Col Reynolds meant with his comment on his wife having bugged Jack about something.
Jen had met the woman before at functions, but they'd never really connected. Linda Reynolds was a busybody, sticking her nose into others' people's business, actively working on advancing her husband's career and thus her own social standing.
That old naval saying "The captain's wife wields almost as much power as the captain himself" is true and Linda wanted as much power as possible.
As such, a lowly female Lieutenant neither in a position to help her quest nor endanger it hadn't even registered on Linda's radar.
That was before...
Since neither Jack nor Hammond had been married from the start of the SGC, Linda had been the President of the Officers' Wives Club after Reynolds had advanced enough, a position she'd taken very seriously.
It struck Jen just then just how lucky she was that she and Jack had become public only after he had been promoted. Had they come out while Jack was still in charge of the SGC, with her marriage to Jack Jen would've automatically become the Club's president, thus de-throning Linda Reynolds.
And with her difficult pregnancy Jen already had too much on her plate to also take on all the duties her new position would've given her, next to having a vice-president that was boiling with resentment.
Suddenly realizing the quality of her musings Jen cringed at having such uncomplimentary thoughts about someone she didn't actually know, but had only constructed a theory about from very few occasions for observation.
Making herself as invisible as she could, while being as big as a Zeppelin, Jen resolved to be quiet and for now reserve judgement, until she gathered all the information.
Jen could hear Jack mutter "Oh, fer cryin' out loud!" before he sighed in defeat. She touched his hand in comfort, but said nothing. Nonetheless, Jack appreciated it and cursed himself for not having left for home while they'd still had the chance.
"General!" Linda Reynolds gushed when she came within hearing range of the man in question "I've been looking all over for you."
Stopping next to their table she nodded at the two other men "Doctor Jackson, Mr Murray." before looking briefly at Jen "Um... Lieutenant... Hailey, is it not?"
"Actually it's O'Neill now." Jen corrected.
"Congratulations." Linda Reynolds smiled pleasantly and nodded, before turning away to Jack. Suddenly she froze in the spot, then slowly pivoted back at Jen.
"I'm sorry, did you say O'Neill?"
Surely, the young woman couldn't have been saying what it sounded like... Best to make sure...
"Where is your husband? I'm yet to meet him..."
"You're looking at him, Mrs Reynolds."
The forced smile froze on the older woman's face as her eyes switched between Jen and Jack's innocent face frantically.
"Am I to understand you and the General are married?"
"That's right." Jen nodded, her hand unconsciously going to her burgeoning belly.
Linda's eyes followed Jen's hand and widened comically at seeing just how big Jen was.
"Congratulations." she squeaked out. This wasn't good, the General had made a terrible mistake. This young thing would never make him happy, while Linda knew Tina was the one for the lonely man.
"Thank you, Mrs Reynolds." Jack took the lead "Now, how can I help you?"
"Hmm?" she queried in her haze, then shook it off, recovering quickly "Oh, I just wanted to congratulate you on your promotion."
'And hook you up with Tina.' she silently continued the sentence in her mind.
As the shock from the revelation wore off, a realization dawned. Albert had been promoted to Brigadier and given command of the SGC, which meant the General was leaving the city. But wasn't Lt Hai... Lt O'Neill a member of the SGC?
"I'm sorry, I know it's not my business, but are you, Lieutenant, staying with the SGC or going with the General?"
"I'm moving with Jack to Florida, where I'll be assigned to the labs after I get from my maternity leave."
The smile was much more genuine now "Congratulations again to both of you, on your marriage and pregnancy."
"Thank you." Jack and Jen responded in unison and Daniel barely stopped himself from teasing them about how cute that was.
Soon after, Linda made her excuses and wandered off. As soon as she was out of sight a younger woman approached cautiously.
"Hello, my name's Rachel Nanckley, Lieutenant Nanckley's wife. We haven't been properly introduced yet since Mike and I have gotten married just a month ago."
The friends at the table, now joined by Sam and Pete, introduced themselves to the pleasant young woman.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't help but overhear." she turned to Jack and Jen "Am I understanding correctly that you're a member of the SGC yourself?"
The question was meant for Jen, who nodded in reply.
"And you're transferring to Florida too?"
"Yes, I'll be taking a spot in the labs there, I'm a Theoretical Astrophysicist by education."
There was admiration in Rachel's eyes, then she shared conspiratorially "I can't tell you how relieved I was to find out Mrs Reynolds will be staying here. I realize I haven't known her along, but she's supposedly quite difficult to get along with. You know, always has to have the first and last word and the like..."
"I know what you mean."
Rachel blushed then "I really shouldn't be talking like that about a General's wife and the President of the Club."
Jen chuckled "Don't worry, nobody here will tell on you. Besides, she's not your President anymore. I guess I'll have to take that responsibility when we move to Florida."
She grimaced at the thought of everything that would bring.
Rachel nodded "It'll be nice to have a young President that's not taking it like some career or something like that, there are too many such women in SGC's Club. I'm not saying they're all like that, but the top ones are too much sometimes. I hope you don't mind me saying this, but I think we'll get along great."
Jen agreed wholeheartedly, she was already liking Rachel, who was about her age to boot. She had a friendly, honest face and Jen had a feeling they'd be great friends.
Unbeknown to her, Jack's eyes were shining happily as he watched his wife make a new friend. Jen had been pretty lonely at the SGC and hadn't socialized with people other than her team and Felger's assistant, which had always had him worried, even before that fateful engagement party. With her life getting richer she was also becoming happier and more secure, which made him happy.
All in all, their drunken one night stand was probably the best thing that could've happened to them in that time of their lives.
Sure, it didn't mean everything was perfect and he was getting some flak from the other flag officers over having such a young wife, who'd once even been his subordinate, but fact was, their lives were much better now than they'd been 12 months ago.
It was getting late and Jen was exhausted so they said their goodbyes to their old and new friends and slowly made their way out of the hall in search of a private room from which they could beam home. Having an Asgard ship constantly in the system to monitor Jen's and the babies' health had a few additional perks...
"They're such a wonderful couple." sighed Rachel, looking after them "It's so great they found each other against the social stigma of such a large age gap, because it's so obvious how much in love they are."
Her husband, who'd in the meantime joined them, tightened his arms around her in agreement as Daniel and Teal'c vocally expressed shared sentiment.
Sam was silent, observing the couple in question.
Watching Jack walk away, one arm around Jen's shoulders, while she was with Pete, having to watch Jack walk away with another woman, such a symbolic act, caused her pain. More than that, she could no longer avoid the truth she'd been hiding away from for years.
Even though she'd always privately blamed Jack, for his integrity and honor and, more importantly, for not giving up his career for her, as she'd always believed it should've been and not the other way around, it wasn't only his fault for their relationship never becoming romantic.
She'd stalled, put her career before everything else, arrogantly believing he'd always be waiting in the wings for her, no matter how long and no matter how many other men and aliens she flirted or slept with, and when she finally decided their time had come he would've come to her like a puppy to it's master, even if that meant throwing away his distinguished career.
In her big picture of things Jack's marriage to Jen didn't even register. She didn't tell anyone, but she personally didn't believe their story. Maybe they were fooling other people, but she wasn't that naive.
The thing was, even though she'd never let him get close enough to get to know all of him, she was all too aware of the fact that Jack was a man of honor.
Had he really been married since so long ago, there was no way in hell he would've acted like that to Sam all these years because that would've been disrespecting Jen and basically cheating on her. Which was something Jack O'Neill would never do.
Another thing he would've never done was deceive Sam, make her think he was still interested whereas in reality he was with someone else. Had he really married Jen back then Sam was certain one of the first things he would've done was to have a talk with his 2IC even before starting a relationship with anyone else, to make a clean break, let her know he was pulling back, that way allowing them both to move on with their lives.
Jack was also someone who, even though he never let anyone close when he was hurting, wore his feelings on his sleeve and that Jack O'Neill had still been in love with her one year ago, not with anyone else.
Sam didn't know what had happened for the General and the angry Lieutenant to get together, but it had to have been in the last year.
Perhaps Hailey had slept with some man and Jack had in his damn chivalry stepped in to spare her the ostracation of being a single mother who'd gotten knocked up by a stranger and had then somehow made Hammond go along with it. Perhaps her parents were extremely religious and he fell victim to the ultimate damsel in distress scenario, sacrificing himself so she wouldn't lose her family.
Or they had actually fallen in love sometime after Sam had accepted Pete's "proposal", but it was beyond Sam how these two law-obiding officers had even come to the psychological point that allowed them to break one of the most sacred laws in the military - fraternization regulations.
But in the end how it had happened didn't actually matter, the only thing that matter was that it had happened and it could've been prevented had she not been so stupid.
She realized know she should've either talked to Hammond to get permission to date Jack herself or simply resigned from the Air Force and apply for the job as a civilian and not wait on Jack to do it. Jack's position and career had always been more important than hers in the big scope of things, if she was truthful with herself, the programme needed him. Had he retired, with Hammond following, the programme would've been left with no charismatic and strong leader and that would've made it a pretty easy prey for all the wolves out there.
She really should've done something herself, especially since it had always been obvious, even to a blind man, that Jack was following her cues when it came to their relationship (his part of the blame for them not ever becoming a couple) and because she'd not only not shown any desire for a relationship with him, but had specifically told him she DIDN'T WANT a relationship with him after they'd been forced to reveal their secret feelings so they wouldn't be put into comas for the rest of their lives.
After his anouncement of his marriage to Jen, Sam had naively believed it wouldn't last and had comforted herself with the fact that she still had him in her life as her CO. It wasn't much, but it was something.
But now, since he'd accepted this promotion and was about to move to Florida, Sam was faced with the terrifying truth that she'd lost him forever, she wouldn't have him not even as her CO anymore. Unless there was a special occasion she'd never see him again for the rest of her life.
A tear broke through her defences and unnoticed by anyone ran down her cheek, as Sam was faced with the self-inflicted tragedy of her personal life.
Because of her selfishness she'd lost the best man to ever love her and now she would have to find a way to live without him.
' So long, Jack O'Neill.' she thought ' Live a long and happy life.'
"Remember, this is a hit and run operation. We go in hard, do what we're supposed to and then extract to the exfil point. No Lone Ranger crap and no dallying about, we're short on time. Roger that?"
Getting the reply he wanted Jack then outlined the plan "You wait here and cover me while I go inside to get what we came for. Then we get the hell out of here."
His team-member looked at him dubiously "You know, you going over a shopping trip the same way you would a raid on an enemy base worries me a little." The gorgeous chocolate orbs stared up at him.
Jack thought about that for a second then shrugged and took her hand, causing those eyes to roll.
By the time they reached the food court from where Jen would "cover him" she was beginning to be glad she wasn't supposed to do anything but sit while Jack went to do the last minute baby stuff shopping for spare clothes, diapers and the lot.
Sure, she probably should've been worried about sending a man to shop for baby clothes - he'd probably come out with a bunch of camouflage-themed onesies, though in that case Jen wouldn't be much opposed - but she didn't care.
It had taken two hours of nagging to get Jack to agree to take her with him, so she wasn't willing to do anything to risk this opportunity. Though, at this point, going into labor because she over-did it was starting to become the preferred option. Again she cursed the unfairness of being small - were she taller the pregnancy would've been easier on her, besides not looking in her opinion utterly ridiculous and disproportionate.
With an exhausted huff Jen lowered herself into a chair and when he made sure she was okay Jack quickly went to get something for her.
It always took a few seconds to get comfortable now, no matter where she sat, something that did nothing fo her disposition, especially when she remembered that not even 5 months back that had been no problem.
Her constantly shifting center of gravity had her off-kilter and extremely wary of doing anything that might tip her over, so she began relying more and more on Jack to help her stand, sit and lie down. Even though she loved her husband she hated this kind of dependency.
Sleep was yet another problem... it was as illusive as a pot of gold. There was of course no way to sleep in her favorite position, on her stomach, because it'd hurt the babies and wouldn't probably get much sleep with her upper body tilting into the air at 45 degrees; nor could she sleep on her back. That was, if she wanted to be able to breathe. The only option was lying on her side with a pillow beneath her full womb to support it, otherwise the heavy weight would pull too much on her spine and the pain wouldn't be really conducive to a good night's rest.
The constant trips to the bathroom were driving her crazy, she had already had to go immediately once they'd arrived to the mall. Chances were she'd have to go again before they left for home.
It didn't help that her belly was twice the width of her torso and was making her back hurt terribly, there was just too much weight in her womb putting pressure on her spine, as it hung down in front of her. Even the way her boobs had grown was no longer such a warmly welcomed thing: they now sagged, something they hadn't before, they ached and she had to wear plugs in her bra because they sometimes leaked breast-milk.
Her whole body was making it clear it was more than ready to get rid of the load, that the babies should've been born by now, but the little rascals were seemingly quite content on staying right where they were.
Jen was 36 weeks pregnant now, 2 weeks past the minimum gestation length that would insure satisfactory chances for the triplets to survive with dedicated medical care once they entered the world.
Not even noticing how quickly her mood was going down Jen brushed her hand over her satin summer dress, feeling the hardness of her belly, marred by an occasional kick and roll inside her.
Had she had any doubt they would've evaporated by now, for these were obviously hers and Jack's kids... they were kicking the crap out of her and each other.
"Kids, you know Momma loves you, but if you don't hurry the heck up and come out, I'm gonna call in a few favors and have you beamed out."
"Don't worry, they'll come out when they're ready." Jack assured as he returned to the table, putting a small bowl of pistacchio ice-cream in front of her.
"Really?" Jen retorted archly "That's easy for YOU to say! You're not 8 months pregnant and so big you look ridiculous. If you tripped, you would fall and not just roll away. You're not the one who hasn't seen your feet in months, can't sleep and it's not your stomach that reaches out to the knees when you sit."
"It's okay, Honey."
"No, it's not okay! Get your hands off me, it's your fault I look revolting!"
Jack sighed quietly, giving in.
Sure, Sara had had mood swings, but they hadn't been so extreme and Sara was as mild-mannered as they come.
Jen on the other hand had always been a little on the aggressive side, especially when he'd met her. While she had mellowed and stabilized quite a lot in the past few years, particularly ever since she'd gotten pregnant, there were still times when it was like a switch had been flipped and she became a fire-breathing dragon. Or a blubering mess, waterworks out of control because she saw some inane commercial on the TV. Sometimes she didn't even need to watch TV... like their first month of marriage when she'd burst into tears in the middle of the street for no reason at all. And then almost covered him with vomit when her morning sickness had hit suddenly while he'd been comforting her.
Her increased libido had unfortunately been dampened 2 weeks after the first time she'd needed his help to get off the couch, because for some reason she thought she looked disgusting. It wasn't something he agreed on, because the sight of her so big with the babies HE had planted in her, had him in low-level arousal 24/7. Making love had kept her insecurities effectively at bay, but now that she felt too uncomfortable for anything including sex Jack was fighting a running battle with her waning self-esteem. Hopefully the kids would come out soon and her emotions could go back to normal.
Knowing he wouldn't be able to accomplish anything, only make her madder and give other shoppers some entertainment, he gently kissed her full lips, not surprised when she didn't return the kiss.
"I'll be back ASAP." then he gently rubbed her belly, exploiting the opportunity to send her a message "Daddy loves you and your Mommy, be good to her."
With that he walked off, leaving Jen to her ice-cream.
When he returned he was gratified to see the cold treat had worked it's charm and Jen's mood was higher.
When he'd helped her up, Jen wrapped her arms around him, laying her head on his chest.
"I'm sorry, Jack, I don't know what came over me earlier, it's just..."
He shushed her with a kiss "I know, baby, I know, don't worry about it. You heard what the Doctor said, if the kids are still in, in one week, they'll induce labor."
"Can't wait." she muttered, but stayed in his arms for a second longer.
Their moment was broken by an unwelcome interruption by a teenage voice.
"EEEWWWWWWWWWWW! Old people making out! Gross!"
Followed by sounds of gagging.
Jack's spine stiffened before he slowly pivoted to face the owner of the obnoxious voice.
He'd recognized the identity of the speaker immediately, but that didn't mean he was prepared for the sight that greeted him. Jack nearly choked on his own saliva.
"Oh, fer cryin' out loud! I can't believe this!" the incredulity quickly turned to anger "THIS is how you're trying to fit-in?! Are you brain damaged?!"
"No more than usual." said Jon, grinning unrepentantly, while Jack ignored the overt dig at him.
"Where did you even find someone to give you that... that... hideous monstrosity?"
"If I told ya, I'd have to kill ya." started the clone, but quickly corrected himself deep in thought "No, wait, that doesn't sound right... You've got a higher security clearance and you're me and I'm you and I'm me and..."
"If you tell me you sought out Ted I'll wring your pimply little neck." Jack growled as he stepped away from Jen, forgetting her in his anger.
Jack leaving his protective position left Jen for a moment in Jon's sight, causing the younger man's eyes to nearly pop out of their sockets at seeing his older self had been kissing a much younger woman.
"Not old people at all..." then he recognized the face "Wait a minute! HAILEY?!"
Turning to his original self he demanded "What the hell do you think you're doing?! Are YOU brain damaged? Hailey's your subordinate and here you are..." he was waving his hands about as he yelled, but then his eyes fell on her extended abdomen.
For a moment he looked faint as if he was about to pass out, but then shook himself out of it "YOU KNOCKED HER UP?! Since when are we robbing the craddle?!" He demanded nastily as he sent an apologizing look at Jen.
"Listen, you little twerp, we're married, for your information and..." Jack's angry retort was interrupted by his wife.
"Do I know you?" Jen's eyes narrowed, for some reason the young man looked very familiar.
"Yeah, you could say that." snorted the young man as his older counterpart's shoulders slumped.
"Jen, may I introduce mini-Me." Jack grimaced as he waved a hand at his clone.
"Mini-Me?" Jen searched his eyes for answers, utterly confused.
"My clone." he whispered after he checked to make sure nobody was eavesdropping on what was surely a pretty interesting incident.
"Oh." the light turned on for Jen. She'd been off-world during that particular crisis, so she'd never met Jon, had only heard of him through the grapevine. With time and mounting pressures and events she'd so completely forgotten about the matter she had been unable to make a connection instantly.
"Um." she looked from one man to the other and back, completely out of her depth. How do you greet someone who is your husband, yet isn't? The clone shared Jack's memories up to a recent point and was his perfect carbon copy, but on the other hand he wasn't Jack O'Neill. Not anymore. How to act towards the man you love who isn't the man you love?
"Hi!" Jen smiled forcedly as she waved quickly.
Jon's eyebrows rose "Hello, Lt Hailey."
"It's O'Neill now."
Eyebrows disappeared into the hairline, having completely overheard that part in his righteous anger at Jack taking advantage of a young subordinate.
Finally Jack had had enough.
"This is not the time or place for this nice little family reunion." he stated firmly, looking around "Why don't you come to the house tomorrow evening and we'll explain everything."
"Yeah." agreed Jon dazedly "I'll do that. Bye."
He waved at them briefly as he departed, leaving the two look after him.
Jen waited until he was out of earshot before posing the question that had bugged her from the first second she'd laid her eyes on the clone "What happened to his hair?"
Sighing, her husband shook his head "It's called the Bundesliga haircut, it was very popular in the 80's, especially in Germany. Bundesliga is otherwise the German national football/soccer league. I don't know why he did this to himself, especially since he had to look up one of our old team-mates to get it done, 'coz I'm sure no self-respecting hair-dresser anywhere in the US would do it anymore. But, knowing him, he did it just to mess with other people's heads. Probably doesn't do much to help him fit in with his peers though."
Jon hadn't gone 30 paces when the married couple heard a young voice shout out in excitement "Hey, guys, it's MacGyver!"
Before their eyes Jon froze in place for a second, then bolted as he saw a group of descending upon him, running towards the exit as fast as his legs would carry him "Mr MacGyver, please stop, we just want an autograph!"
Jen looked up at her husband as he started chuckling maliciously, loving his clone's predicament.
"Serves him right, the little bastard." he muttered.
She shook her head "I'm probably gonna have nightmares after this."
Stepping through the portal back on Earth (or rather, into Earth) Jacob Carter frowned as he looked around, a weird feeling buzzing at the back of his head and it was not Selmak.
He didn't get the feeling of danger, something was simply different.
Shaking it off he walked out the blast doors.
Entering a room a few minutes later he was surprised to find his daughter standing there with some weird guy.
Before he could say anything, though, his daughter jumped to make the introductions, stunning him into silence.
"Pete Shanahan, Jacob Carter. Dad, this is Pete."
He couldn't help but send her an incredulous look.
THIS was her fiancee?! She was marrying this?! She HAD to be kidding... Uncomfortable visions of his future grandchildren looking like blond versions of Mr Potato-head flitted through his mind. No wonder he'd had a bad feeling from the second he'd stepped back on Earth. If she was really serious about this then Jacob was sad to believe she had cheated on her IQ tests.
Pete stared at Jacob stupidly before exclaiming "Dad!"
Jacob grimaced, then corrected "Not quite yet. You have to actually marry my daughter before you can call me that."
"I was just ... I meant... duh..." Pete ranted like a moron, then stopped and laughed.
Jacob's heart was sinking lower and lower. Something had to be seriously wrong with his daughter, no wonder Jonas had broken up with her. Jacob had quite liked her first fiancee (first of just how many Jacob didn't know) and had been bewildered when the other man had broken up with his daughter. Jonas had later, when pressed, revealed in a private conversation that things just hadn't worked, mainly because Sam spent her entire days and even time off in the labs. And if she was like that while they were still engaged and supposedly madly in love there was no hope she'd change once they were married.
It takes two to lead a marriage, when one is rather at work than with the man she supposedly loves, then it's better that marriage never happens and they go different ways while they still can.
When Jacob'd eventually found out Jonas had years later gone crazy on a planet because of the sun's radiation and had killed himself, he had mourned the loss of such a fine young man and officer. To have Jonas replaced with this was an insult to the memory of the deceased officer.
"It's an honour to meet you, sir, really."
Stepping forward Pete for once did something right by shaking Jacob's hand.
When he was back to standing next to his fiancee, the cop whispered "Why didn't you tell me?"
Carter tried to smile, but it came out more like a grimace "I didn't want you to be nervous."
"D... would I... I wouldn't... I..." deciding he couldn't really pull the denial off, he tried to switch topics.
Jacob was still standing there, still shocked and blind-sided.
"I've been dying to meet you." Pete said to his fiancee's cold father.
"I think it was Sam that was nervous." Jacob commented, looking pointedly at his daughter who winced. He knew Sam was expecting him to make Pete feel good and welcome him into the family, but there was no way he could force himself to do it. He simply didn't want him as part of his family.
Besides, it looked like she was welcoming enough herself.
"How did not telling me help?" Pete turned to his fiancee.
"It didn't." Carter said, grimacing.
It was a long time before anyone spoke up again. The three of them were just standing there, Jacob with his arms crossed over his chest frowning disapprovingly at his daughter, Pete grinning confused and Sam grimacing, embarrassed.
It was Pete who spoke up and Carter's initial gratitude for him breaking the icy silence quickly morphed into horror "This is great! You've really got one of those things in your head?"
Jacob's already hard-pressed smile, or rather baring of teeth, dropped, replaced by a steely voice "If by 'one of those things' you mean a two thousand year old Tok'Ra symbiote, yes."
Pete laughed, too light on brain cells to realize what he'd said and done "Seriously?! Go on! That has gotta freak you right out sometimes! It's weird!"
Jacob closed his eyes for a second and took a few deep breaths, otherwise he was sure he'd pummel the idiot into the ground first and disown his own daughter second. When he opened them again he looked at her, baffled. Sam smiled nervously and shrugged.
"Where the hell's Jack?! I want to talk to him!."
"What the hell is going on here, O'Neill?" came the scream down teh line "The SGC is practically emptied-out and nobody's willing to tell me anything! They all say I should talk to you!"
Jack sighed heavily, trying to figure out how to calm down the irate retired General "Ah, yes, see Jacob, there's been a couple of changes lately."
"What kind of changes?" Jacob asked slowly, suspiciously.
"Why don't you come to my place at, say 2000 hours and I'll explain everything. Use the doorbell."
Just then an F-15 Eagle passed low, drowning out his words.
"What was that, Jack? Couldn't hear you." came the voice from the handset "Where the hell are you anyway? Sounded like a fighter taking off."
Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose. It was waaay to early for this "Look, Jacob, just be at my place at 2000 and I'll explain everything. Ring the doorbell, don't forget that part."
Jacob made a few reluctantly agreeable noises before hanging up.
The next thing Jack did was to turn to the medium-sized screen on the side of his desk, brought up the communications protocol and selected a video-session with the unit at his home.
After alerting Jen of the fact they would have a guest that evening and make sure she understood she shouldn't do anything, that he would take care of everything, she just had to be ready to accept company, he disconnected the call and retrieved a large goose-egg-like off-white object out of a locked compartment in his desk.
Pressing at one end he spoke "Heimdall? I need a favor..."
With a melanholic, homesick heaviness in his heart the young man walked slowly up the path to the house that was once his. He missed this place, the solitude, the privacy, the quiet, the singing of the birds and other wildlife in the woods that bordered on the property and every single piece of furniture and property inside the house.
A year later and he still felt as if he'd been robbed, not just of his life but of everything he'd owned. Robbed and thrown out on his ass, with nothing but a shirt on his back, into a new place, expected to start a new life. Again.
Pressing on the doorbell the world suddenly fizzed out before him and he wondered whether he was having a heart attack, before remembering he was now way too young for that.
When the world came back into focus there was something wrong with the picture and he looked around. Baffled he realized he was definitely no longer in Kansas... er, Colorado.
Hearing the door open he came face to face with his original self.
"Where the hell am I?" he demanded.
Jack blinked, having expected someone else.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'll tell you if you tell me where I am." younger Jack taunted.
"Eglin." Jack answered with raised eyebrows.
"Eglin? Florida?" Jon repeated, with a stunned look "What's here?"
"Gah! You know what I mean."
Jack smirked, enjoying torturing his younger self "Homeworld Security HQ."
Jon's look was wary "Why?"
"Because I'm The Man." Jack bragged.
Jon snorted "Yeah, right."
The way Jack smirked at him, convinced Jon he wasn't feeding him any bull. Patting his younger self on the back Jack pushed him into the house.
In the family room they found Jen taking it easy and anew Jon felt the discomfort the experienced every time he encountered anyone from his old life.
To not be older and a few ranks heavier than them, to actually be several years younger than the youngest of them, felt strange.
"Hailey." Jon nodded in greeting, then mentally facepalmed himself.
An amused smirk played on Jen's lips as she looked at him, standing next to his original. She probably wasn't the first one to whom the thought had occured that his physical age was now much closer to the maturity he showed to the world most of the time. Every System Lord who had ever held him captive would no doubt agree.
"Jen." she corrected gently, her eyes twinkling.
Jack's face was priceless when something occured to him.
"Jack?" there was alarm in Jen's voice "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." he dismissed, shaking his head "It's just... There are three O'Neills in this room. Right now."
"What's so strange about that?" she frowned, while Jon now wore the same expressoin as Jack.
Gently patting her belly she reminded him "Btw., you forgot the little ones."
"Little ones?" Jon piped up, but Jack ignored him.
"Because the last time there were more than just one was 10 years ago." Jack concluded sadly.
"I said 'litle ones'?" Jon repeated, trying to catch some attention, even going so far as waving his hand in the air. It was all for naught, though.
"Oh." Jen voice, just as sad as her husband when it occured to her.
With them having no contact with the rest of the O'Neill clan she most of the time felt as if they were the only ones left, that Jack had no other family than her and their children, because that was the closest workable explanation her heart could find for that situation. She simply couldn't understand how they could just drift apart, because her family had always been close. Even after she'd gotten married she still talked to her mother daily and saw her every couple days, but the last part had unfortunately altered with their new posting.
"Hello?!" the obnoxious tone ripped her from her depressing thoughts and she raised her eyes to Jon, who wearing that familiar scowl of annoyance.
"What?" snapped Jack at him, just as irritated.
"Thank you, god." Jon looked theatrically up at the ceiling, then pretended to think about something "Or is it, 'thank you, Goa'uld'?"
Jack rolled his eyes, while Jen giggled.
The General repeated "What did you want?"
"I said, and I repeat that for the third time, 'little ones'?"
Jen smiled, nodding, then winced and rubbed a soothing hand over her hard beach-ball of a stomach, in an effort to calm down her progeny "There's three of them in here."
"Three?" Jon's eyes bulged as he looked from one to the next incredulously "Wow, you definitely don't do things by half."
Gesturing hesitantly towards her he asked "May I?"
Jen was by now thoroughly fed up with people touching her as if she was suddenly public property just because she was pregnant, but she knew this time she couldn't decline. Jon was family, but even though he shared the kids' father's DNA, she still couldn't and would never be able to see him as anything but her children's Uncle.
As Jen nodded and Jon slowly stepped forward the doorbell rang. Jack looked at his younger self, then jerked with his thumb over his shoulder "I'll go let Jacob in" and walked off.
"Is this some kind of a bad joke, Jack?" Jacob warily looked from Jack to Jen.
"Joke?" Jack denied "Would I joke? Is this the face of someone making a joke?"
He tried for an innocent look, but for some reason it failed to fool anyone.
"You're a Major General." Jacob repeated dully when he realized Jack was in fact telling the truth, then literally fell back against the couch.
"I think I broke him." Jack snickered gleefully, receiving an exasperated eyeroll from his wife and a high-five from his younger self that he enthusiastically returned.
Surprisingly Jacob had taken the news of Jack and Jen's marriage quite well... in principle.
Preceeding Jack into the main room Jacob stopped in his tracks, surprised to see a young couple sitting there, never having envisioned Jack as someone who received guests. Stepping towards the young woman he introduced himself, raising his eyebrows when Jen told him her name.
Looking over at the young man he shot a look at Jack "I didn't know you had a nephew."
Shaking Jon's hand before the boy could correct him, he sized him up, frowning as he realized he was a minor while Jen was definitely a legal adult "Aren't you kind of young for that haircut or to be a father, for that matter?"
A smothered giggle came from the direction of the lovely young lady, while the boy just huffed "That depends. On P-whatever they had kids at 12."
Jacob froze, blinking furiously. Slowly, so slowly you could hear the hinges squeak, his head turned around to Jack "Did he... How does he know..."
Jack was smirking "Jacob, this is mini-me."
"Not mini-you. Mini-ME."
"The Asgard wanted a playmate." Jack replied, tongue in cheek.
"Are you trying to say he's your cl..." he censored himself at the last second, realizing there was someone else in the room, his brain still struggling with the details to process other data.
"I'm sorry, Miss, but we'll be back in a sec. This is a classified conversation. I'll just take your husband and... father-in-law to the other room."
Jacob was trying to forcefully shepherd the other two guys out of the room when Jen's amused voice stopped "No need to, sir. I've got clearance."
"You do?" Jacob looked at her warily.
"Yes, sir, I work with the program. Former Lieutenant Hailey, sir."
Jacob's eyebrows rose "I remember you, Sam and George mentioned you once. Why the former part, though?"
Jen shrugged, face taking on a red hue "Well, I'm still a Lieutenant, just that my last name is O'Neill now."
"Yes, I assumed as much..."
"But I'm not married to Jon, sir." said Jen smiling gently "Lieutenant Jennifer O'Neill as in Mrs Jack O'Neill."
The look on Jake's face was priceless. It was just so convenient that Jack's cell-phone had a built-in camera...
The old man had immediately accepted the truth of their marriage (though Jack had seen the inscrutable look Jake had thrown him, but Jack didn't know whether it was because of the Carter-Jennifer thing or because of Jennifer's age and her status as his former subordinate), it was just the professional-change-part he was having a hard time with.
"Yup, a Major General, Jake." Jack smirked, enjoying this so much.
"And you're in charge of.."
"Of Homeworld Security."
The original and the copy couldn't help but take malicious enjoyment in Jacob's daze and shock, while the only woman of the group just rolled her eyes at their incorrigible behaviour.
Jacob frowned at them. Jack was now his equal and was taking just too much pleasure in that fact.
A lot had changed since he'd last been on Earth, from Sam's newest dalliance (wonder how long this one will live...), to the complete restructure of the SGC and expansion of the program, to Jack's most surprising news of marriage to a so much younger woman and impending fatherhood. Not that Jacob believed the official story for even a second, but felt that if they needed a cover story then he would go along with it. Cover story or not, it was still plainly obvious these two were married (such a thing can not be pretended) and in love, ecstatic over their impending parenthood, and that Jack was actually happy for the first time Jacob had known him, which was over 6 years and not merely existing as he had for so long.
He was sure Sam's newest affair had something to do with the inception of this relationship (he'd heard from Daniel of how Sam had "told" her CO, the man who had been quite obviously in love with her, that she was seeing someone else and was severely disappointed in her for the poorest handling of such a delicate situation he had ever seen) because he knew Jack had cared too much Sam 4 years ago to just go and marry a woman he had seen only once before without telling Sam it was over, never mind hurt her by pretending interest in her while being married to another woman. Once you got past his Black Ops past Jack was a pretty honest and straight-foward guy and he would never be able to live with deceiving his friends for so long, he would've cracked long before then.
To his own sadness, he truly didn't know anything of the young woman who had touched Jack's life in such a significant way, except for that one time George and Sam had mentioned her with such hopes. Truthfully he was a little surprised, for he had always thought Jack had a type - from what he'd heard of his daughter, Jack's former wife was a tall blonde, just like Sam herself, but that just showed you shouldn't jump to conclusions.
From what George had told him, the young woman had a major chip on her shoulder (and if that didn't remind him of another young woman from years ago...), but looking at the girl himself he couldn't see it. She was obviously a strong person and her eyes revealed fire, but seemed a lot more tame than in that one tale. Hm, "tamed" was probably the wrong word, because she was not a broken-in wild horse or something like that. The word "matured" was much better. Yes, matured was precisely the adjective he was looking for. Her marriage to Jack and pregnancy had seemingly caused her to mature emotionally and mentally and not in a bad way, in fact, because she was nowhere near the aggressive hot-head Sam had portrayed her to be.
She shone with inner peace, grace and dignity many an older woman would envy and, as corny and cliche as it sounded, she really did glow with impending motherhood. The soft smile and the loving hand running soothingly up and down her belly spoke of her love for her children and the raw emotion in her eyes when she looked at her husband screamed her feelings for the man, who returned them whole-heartedly. His heart ached at the memory of his own youth and the way Margaret had looked in that condition, pregnant with their children. Every time he thought of his much too early departed wife his heart squeezed with pain and guilt, pain and guilt that would hound him for the rest of his days.
While he would've accepted Jack as a son-in-law with open arms at any point during the new era of his life, manifested by letting the young man call him "Dad", he'd never actually believed it would come to that. Hoped, for the sake of Jack's and Sam's happiness, yes, but believed, no. He knew his daughter all too well and knew she sabotaged every relationship she had, most of them on purpose, as soon as it became clear they would interfere with her career and professional goals for the future (in Sam's case professional equaled personal). Therefore he hadn't been even a little surprised to learn Sam had ditched Jack and had hooked up with another man, the man both he and Selmak were not really enthusiastic about.
Coming here he had expected to find a broken man, a broken man trying to hide his pain from the outside world, but had been surprised to find out the truth was the complete opposite. Pleasantly surprised, for that matter.
Quarter of an hour later they were sitting at the dining table eating dinner and talking animatedly.
Suddenly Jen felt some kind of release of tension inside her body and the next second she was sitting on a soaking wet chair.
Her face flamed with humiliation before she realized something else had happened. Then her face paled, something that was caught by her husband.
"Jen, honey, what's wrong?" Jack querried, his voice heavy with concern.
Her dark eyes rose to meet his, fear, excitement, joy and stark terror in them "Jack, I... I think my water just broke."
Nicole Hailey was driving home when she received a call. Seeing her son-in-laws number she picked it up, happy to hear from him.
But Jack was too much in a hurry "Nicole? It's time!"
His tone surprised her and the words confused her "Time? Time for what?"
"The babies are coming!" Jack exclaimed, excited and frazzled at the same time.
"The..." Nicole's eyes widened "The babies? They're coming?!"
"Yeah." Jack nodded, forgetting she couldn't see him "Look, in two hours a car will pick you and Joe up to take you to the airport. There you'll board a plane..."
"Jack... Car? Plane?" Nicole tried to stop Jack and her whirling thoughts so the situation could sink in. Her baby girl was in labor?!
"Don't worry about it, everything's taken care of. Just be packed and ready to go in two hours. Is that enough time? Look, we're at the hospital, I have to go now. I'll see you soon."
"Jack?" but the line was already dead. She couldn't blame him, though. Pressing speed-dial #1 she called her husband to tell him the news and to get him to come home ASAP.
Jacob and Jon were playing table football on a table they'd apprehended in the waiting room when suddenly the door burst open and two people rushed in.
Wordlessly they watched the harried couple pass them by and head in the direction of the delivery rooms.
Staring for a second in the direction the two had left their eyes then met, they shrugged and went back to their game.
Nicole and Joseph came in just as Jen had finished delivering the last baby.
They stopped, a plethora emotions washing over them as they watched the small beings measured, weighed and washed before being handed over to the proud parents.
Nicole let out a sob, finally alerting the other couple to their presence and Jen's exhausted expression filled with happiness and love.
"Mom, Dad, meet Sean, Blair and Alexander."
As the grandparents fussed over the babies, Jen's misty eyes met Jack's soft ones.
The love and devotion she felt for him was clear as day in those beautiful chocolate orbs, taking Jack's breath away.
That morning a lifetime ago, when he'd come to only to find himself, to his immense shock, with arms full of a young, vibrant Lieutenant, Jack had regretted ever waking up, believing he had committed the biggest mistake of his life.
But now... now, so many months later, Jack knew: Waking up is the easiest thing to do, while dealing with the consequences is not.
But sometimes... sometimes it's definitely worth it.
THE END OF THE BEGINNING
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT (since there won't be a sequel you get a summary): Jacob doesn't die, Carter marries Pete (she wanted him so much, so then she should have him), the Asgard don't become extinct, Seasons 9 and 10 happen, Carter DOESN'T get any command (she had only a year of being an O5 and a year of command of SG-1, with the next two years of no command position, no way would she be promoted so soon, much less get to command Atlantis in RL or anything else so soon); Cam and Vala hook up when a ploy to make Daniel jealous backfires, get married and have a kid - after all, only Cam can handle Vala. Daniel marries his own big ego, Teal'c gets his head out of his ass and goes to reclaim Ishta. Jon decides to do things differently the second time 'round, goes to a civilian College to become a Veterinarian, where he meets a nice, sweet girl that accepts him as he is, they fall in love and go steady for 5 years before sealing the deal.
Jack and Jen live in love happily ever after (Thor overhauls their bodies so they will live longer - they eventually die together one night in sleep), Jack become a Lieutenant General as in canon, Jen returns to USAF after her too short maternity leave (seriously... Germany has 3 years, most of Europe has at least 1 year and the US has just six weeks?), but reserves her commission for her family two years later when she again gives birth, this time to a daughter they name Katya), going back to duty after all the kids start school; Jack retires as a four star General, five years after Katya's birth and, as said, they live happily ever after.
Reviews are love.